April 2011

Getting to know Kenya and Daadab Refugee Camp

Map of Kenya

Map of Kenya

Kenya was not on my radar till very recently. I knew very little about Africa, especially Central Africa and the little I knew painted some very problematic pictures – AIDS, political uncertainly, genocide, starving people, kids whose parents got killed in wars,  not mentioning Uganda where an operation Entebbe happened on July 4, 1976 (where an Israeli plane was hijacked by terrorists and the brother of Benjamin Netanyahu was killed).. . However, I have a colleague who was born in Kenya and who deeply cares about this country. I have a lot of respect for him for many reasons. One of it is that he cares. He cares about the students here and there. He is from Kenya and he loves the country. We are so lucky people like him chosen to live in Canada while they have close connection with their motherland. He helped to build schools in Kenya and he strongly believes that helping the children and youth there to get education is something we all will benefit from. Conversations with him drew our attention to the Daadab refugee camp – the largest refugee camp in the world. The camp (or to be more accurate we have to say “the camps”) has thousands of people (300,000+)  who live in conditions that for many of us are unimaginable. Many of the residents of this refugee camp are children who have little chance to get education unless there will be trained teachers there… Just a quote from Wikipedia: “The camps cover a total area of 50 square km and are within an 18 km radius of Dadaab town. With a capacity of about 90,000, the camps host currently nearly 300,000 refugees as of October 2009. Although some new arrivals came as immigrants following the resurgence of violence in Somalia in December 2006, much of the refugee inflow has been heavily reduced by the Kenyan government’s closure of the border.”… And here is where we come in. A group of educators from my Department (the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC) led by my colleague is planning to start a teacher training program there, so local kids can be educated by local teachers and can have a better chance to succeed and continue their education outside of the camp. I keep watching the videos… They are scary, but I also feel hopeful. Thanks to my colleague, I think I can do something truly meaningful. The images of holocaust come to mind when I think what the people in this refugee camp had to escape from… Maybe I will not be able to help much, but there are many people who want to help and maybe together we will be able to make a difference…

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