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Elimu programme beneficiaries assured of continued support

Besides the prevailing conditions that forced migrants out of their home countries to refugee camps in Kenya, the Government of Kenya and its partners care about their education.

The Ministry of Education stepped up advocacy in Kenyan refugee camps to sensitise Elimu Scholars on the benefits of quality education offered at different learning institutions, including boarding schools.

The advocacy efforts saw the refugee camp community leaders and parents agree to talk to their disgruntled learners about the importance of remaining in school despite everyday challenges that affect every learner.

The delegation of the Ministry of Education, among other stakeholders, reached a truce on contentious issues that bedevilled some beneficiaries.

The separation of some refugees on board the Elimu Scholarships from their families, among other issues, prompted the mop-up exercise for a reality check with the parents, learners, teachers, and community leaders in refugee camps in Daadab, Kakuma, and Kalobeyei resettlement schemes.

The Ministry of Education team led by Dr. Hellen Boruet encouraged camp community leaders to champion parents to motivate their children since everything has been provided for by the Ministry through its implementing partners, the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation (JKF) and Equity Group Foundation (EGF).

“Every child on Kenyan soil should be enrolled in compulsory education since the Government cares about its visitors,” said Dr. Hellen.

Speaking at Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County, Dr. Boruet affirmed that teenage pregnancies were prevalent amongst girls in refugee camps and that could be averted if girls were enrolled and retained in schools, calling on the community leaders not to discriminate against girls to gain education.

Dr. Boruet reiterated that girls’ education is key to life since educating a girl is educating a community, adding that teenage marriage denies girls the opportunity to know their rights, among other problem-solving skills including basic hygiene, feeding the children, and family ensuring a healthy community.

Dr. Boruet observed that young girls have opportunities in the modern world, unlike their older counterparts, who were victims of retrogressive cultures that denied girls opportunities, calling on parents to educate all children.

The transition from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) was a policy issue that had caused hitches in the service delivery of Edu-Afya, which the government is keen on resolving soon to ensure medical expenses for all students are resumed.

The stakeholders recommended that school management could look into modalities of meeting medical costs where parents and guardians are unable to pay, including having the medical bills pegged as pending bills, which can be looked into when the transition to SHIF is complete.

Kakuma refugee camp Community leader Jamal Abdikadir (not his real name, pseudo name to hide his identity) challenged fellow camp leaders to help the government in its effort to manage the future of their children, including instilling discipline and counselling on drugs and substance abuse in the camps, without leaving everything to the government and its partners.

Studying in a distant boarding school was considered better than a day school in the refugee camps since schools are protected, unlike commuting within and outside the camps.

Culture shock was normal for people on new grounds, where exposure and mingling with students in a new learning school environment were preferred for learners to concentrate in school.

On food rations for the refugees provided by the WFP, the learners were assured their biometric data would not be deactivated; instead, they are on record as being in school and will access their share of food during school holidays.

Some refugee students have challenges with English and Kiswahili. School principals, teachers, and students were urged to aid in translation when students faced such challenges.

It emerged that some students who are refugees are not keen on learning and are reluctant since the camps are a holding ground before they are repatriated to other countries.

The UNHCR representative for education in the Kakuma refugee camp, Mr. Ali Duale, assured beneficiaries of the Government Elimu Scholarships that their food rations from the World Food Programme are safe and will be available during school holidays.

This came amidst reported cases of students worrying their biometric data would be deactivated while in boarding schools, unlike their day-school counterparts at the refugee camps.

Feedback from some school Principals hosting refugee students complains of lack of discipline with some learners who go to the extreme of attacking teachers and fellow students.

Interclan conflicts are rampant at the refugee camps and affect the learners when they meet in the same schools; therefore, there is a need to instill discipline in students with such behaviour.

120 cases of fake certificates were reported during the Elimu Scholarships application. The education officials warned of stern action since the malpractice amounts to a criminal case.

The refugee learners were advised that life had given them another chance to live as dignified human beings, and they should take advantage of and maximise that opportunity since education is a great equaliser.

Duale attributed the discord among refugee students compared to their needy Kenyan counterparts to the pampering they receive at camps from various donor agencies, which is now on the decline.

He said the UNHCR was now shifting its approach to development, where everyone should participate, unlike care and maintenance before.

By Joseph Kamolo Mutua 

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