Since 2009, the UBC Faculty of Education has been working with Kenya’s Moi University and the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya to develop and implement a teacher education program for secondary school teachers in the Dadaab settlement.
Dadaab lies 100 km from the Kenya-Somalia border. It is home to a staggering half a million people and is known to be the world’s largest refugee camp. Initially intended to host up to 90,000 people in the first three camps, Dadaab’s expansion now includes six settlements (Hagadera, Dagahaley, Ifo, Ifo 2 West, Ifo 2 East, and Kambioos), with new refugees arriving at the gates, waiting to be registered every day.
Ninety-five percent of the refugees originate from Somalia and, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who manage the complex, the total number of Somali refugees registered in February 2013 was 426,200. The first two camps were originally built in 1991 and 1992, and many people live their whole lives in the camp, some never leaving the complex.
Approximately 37% of the Dadaab population is school-aged (5-18 years old). Forty-nine percent of these children (roughly 50,000) are not in school. The teacher/student ratio is 1:68. Over 90% of the teachers are untrained while others are volunteers—graduates of the camp schools—recruited to teach by Dadaab parents. All teachers have limited resources and large classes of enthusiastic, committed students. Few, if any, have access to professional development programs or academic opportunities with their teaching circumstances in mind.
Dr. Rita Irwin with students and teachers in a Dadaab classroom, 2009
Coordinating efforts between UBC and Moi University, the Dadaab project is led by Dr. Rita Irwin, Dr. Samson Nashon (Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy) and Dr. Thomas Sork (Department of Educational Studies). The two universities have agreed to develop a Diploma in Teacher Education with the following goals in mind:
- to improve education for the children (particularly girls) of Dadaab,
- to support teachers to develop and augment their teaching competencies,
- to broaden opportunities for children/youth and teachers through enhanced education so that both the children/youth and the teachers qualify for subsequent academic opportunities,
- to interrupt the loss of further generations of Dadaab refugees to the limitations of the camp.
The Dadaab project is a humanitarian effort currently linked in parallel partnership between York University and Kenyatta University who are working on a similar education program for elementary teachers. In early 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) awarded a grant to York University for funding and support of the Dadaab project.
In recent news, the Pearson Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission includes the promotion and encouragement of literacy, teaching and learning, has made the generous donation of 2500 books, including the cost of shipment to Kenya.
The Dadaab project, Developing a Knowledge Creation and Research Mobilization Partnership for Studying Teacher Learning within a Refugee Camp, was awarded the UBC Hampton Partnership Development Grant of $10,000. The proposal was submitted by Dr. Rita Irwin, Dr. Karen Meyer, Dr. Samson Nashon and Dr. Cynthia Nicol (Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy).
To date, the UBC Faculty of Education members involved in the Dadaab project include: Dr. George Belliveau (LLED), Mr. Bruce Gurney (EDCP), Dr. Kedrick James (LLED), Dr. Elizabeth Jordan (ECPS), Dr. Lisa Loutzenheiser (EDCP), Ms. Joanne Melville (EDCP), Dr. Karen Meyer (EDCP), Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin (EDCP), Dr. Cynthia Nicol (EDCP), Dr. Theresa Rogers (LLED), Ms. Susan Thompson (EDCP), Dr. Jennifer Vadeboncoeur (ECPS). Their contributions include developing online courses for the program with hopes of participating in classroom-based teaching in the future.
All photos courtesy of Dr. Rita Irwin
The Faculty of Education is continuing to develop independent plans with Moi University to provide professional development to the Dadaab secondary teachers. Students will be admitted to both UBC and Moi University, with the students receiving a secondary teacher education diploma from Moi University. The program is expected to launch in August 2013. (Update: the program launch date has been pushed to August 2014. The Dadaab secondary teacher education students will be enrolled in a professional development bridging program in 2013/14.)
If you are interested in contributing to the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Enabling Fund, please visit the BHER (York University) website at crs.yorku.ca/bher-helping-BHER.
To find out more about the UNHCR’s efforts in Dadaab, visit unhcr.org.
For video and stories of triumph from Dadaab, visit FilmAid’s project dadaabstories.org.