November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

BHER Borderless Higher Education for Refugees

A partnership between Canadian and Kenyan Universities and NGOS supports refugees in Dadaab, Kenya into gender equitable teacher training diplomas. The programme has ‘stacked’ discrete elements which result in internationally recognised qualifications which can contribute to a full degree.

Objectives of the Intervention

The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project aims to make educational programs available where refugees need them.

Project’s aim is to provide gender equitable teacher training programs to working, untrained teachers who can then contribute back to the community, increasing and improving education in the camps overall. These same teachers can continue beyond teacher training certificates and diplomas, applying their “portable” earned credit towards full degree programs. In doing so, BHER students can increase their opportunities for employment in the camps, local areas and upon resettlement or repatriation to their home country. To foster the educational pursuits of young women, BHER is establishing a mentorship program that pairs young local women with other international scholars and students to encourage and assist them with the challenges of school, employment, and managing other social expectations. Providing gender equitable access to education, a key component of the BHER project, will increase opportunities for young women to access employment and participate actively in local decision making.

The BHER training program has been developed with the unique challenges of refugee camps in mind. As such, to provide teacher training and higher education we are creating and delivering onsite and on-line courses through the coordination of our partners and built on work already being done. Courses meet international standards and are offered through the joint efforts of our partner organizations. All offerings will be “stackable”, allowing students to earn a certificates or diplomas at each level of study, incrementally building towards earning a degree.

The BHER project aims to:

  1. improve the equitable delivery of quality education in refugee camps and adjacent local communities through university training opportunities which will prepare a new generation of male and female teachers;
  2. create targeted, continuing opportunities for young men and women in university programs that will enhance their employability through portable certificates, diplomas and degrees;
  3. build the capacity of Kenyan academic institutions that already offer onsite/on-line university degree programs to vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

Refugee crisis in Global South
In the Global South there are currently some 15.2 million people caught in refugee situations, often for ten years or more, as an outcome of war, human rights violations, and/or persecution in their home countries. Attending university or accessing other tertiary degree programs has been almost impossible.

Lack of HE for refugees
Refugees who have completed secondary school almost universally voice the desire to attend university, but to date international scholarships to schools in the Global North remain the only opportunity to pursue a higher education. These scholarships are few, and only benefit the one percent who secure them based on age, availability and merit, among other factors. For the majority of students, higher education remains out of reach.

Somali refugees in Kenya
In the region of Dadaab, Kenya, for example, education within the six camps is limited to primary and sometimes secondary instruction. At these levels, class sizes are immense and materials are scarce. Many teachers often possess insufficient training, most of whom having completed only elementary or secondary school themselves. Amidst these challenges, young women face additional barriers to pursuing an education. Often seen as subordinate to boys, girls have had fewer opportunities to attend school while also balancing responsibilities for domestic labour and, due to the pressures of poverty, sometimes taking on paid work. Other challenges serve to encumber girls’ access to education: early marriage, lack of sanitary napkins relegating girls to the home, and minority status in class result in a hesitance to ask questions and seek explanations for content they do not understand.

Main aims
As described under question 2. Objective, the main aims are to improve the equitable delivery of quality education in refugee camps and adjacent local communities through university training opportunities which will prepare a new generation of male and female teachers; create targeted, continuing opportunities for young men and women in university programs that will enhance their employability through portable certificates, diplomas and degrees; build the capacity of Kenyan academic institutions that already offer onsite/on-line university degree programs to vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Funding
The project is funded by the Canadian government, but initiated by the University of York and other partners.

At the same time, project is strongly supported by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The target group are first of all refugees. In the majority of cases, BHER is involving refugees from Somalia. Out of the overall amount of students attending the courses through BHER, 75% are refugees, while 25% are local students.

One of the reasons for this is the lack of HE opportunities in Kenya, and more importantly to contribute to the process of cohesion and integration of young refugees into Kenyan society as well as to contribute to the local community as well.

At the same time, the target group of this project are young women – with a focus on gender equality. Usually women don’t attend even secondary education and therefore hardly qualify for the higher education. Therefore, the project aims at involving them, in the first year group with 30% and in the second phase with 40%.

The project will include 2 academic groups, one that started in 2013, and the second one starting in 2014. In each of the years project will involve 200 students.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

Besides the partners involved in the project, strong support is given by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Besides others, they have donated computers, helped in the construction of the campus.

Government of Kenya as well gives full support to the project, besides others by donating the land where the campus has been built.

These 2 partners, Kenyan government and UNHCR have as well worked with Somalia on the situation.

One of the main challenges of the project is security. Throughout many meetings that the consortium had, there was always a threat of a breach in security. These problems also caused a certain delay in the timeline of the project. To prevent these, police usually escort the partners throughout their stay in the country.

Second challenge is the gender balance. It is very hard to find women with acceptable score from the secondary education to start this course. In the education system for secondary education, every score under ‘C’ is not good enough to enter higher education.

The third big challenge is to keep students in the programme. Currently, there are grants for students (scholarships) that work on the individual level (‘who gets a scholarship is saved’). This is why this project is trying to work on the inclusivity, group work, teaching them on how to work with each other and how to help each other in the process.

Also, taking into account the situation in the country, one big problem is the fact that students don’t usually have electricity at home. To work on this issue, the project also started a smaller initiative which works on collecting money (crowd funding) to buy solar lamps. The campaign is accessible on the following link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-lamps-for-university-students-in-dadaab

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

Phase 1 – InSTEP
Students will initially enrol in a university preparation program called the Increased access and Skills for Tertiary Education (aka InSTEP). Its purpose is to prepare prospective students for university education through courses in English Language for Academic Purposes, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Research Skills. It will run in the months when teachers are not engaged in teaching in the schools, i.e., August, December and April in three camps, Hagadera, Dagahaley, and Ifo. The program accommodates a cohort of 200 students in any given year. Windle Trust Kenya and World University Service of Canada deliver this program.

Phase 2-A – Educational Studies (Elementary) (CES)
Students who elect to proceed with their studies (after InSTEP) will be admitted to the one year Certificate of Completion in Education Studies (CES). Courses will incorporate both current theory and local knowledge, and will be sensitive to and appropriate for the context within which the Certificate is being offered. Both participants and their instructors will be challenged to creatively find and develop resources that can be used to support teaching and learning in the camp context. The Certificate program is offered by York University.

Phase 3-A – Teacher Education Diploma (Primary) (DTE-P)
Students that complete CES successfully may choose to undertake the Teacher Education Diploma (Primary) (DTE-P). The courses that make up the Diploma program will be university unit courses that will be transferable to other degree programs, are recognized by local education authorities, and will support untrained teachers in developing the knowledge, skills, abilities that will help them become effective educators at the primary school level. The DTE-P is offered by the School of Education at Kenyatta University.

Phase 2 & 3-B – Teacher Education Diploma (Secondary) (DTE-S)
As an alternative to the Teacher Education Diploma (Primary) students completing InSTEP may be admitted to a two year Diploma in Teacher Education (Secondary) (DTE-S). This program is offered by Moi University in collaboration with the University of British Columbia.

Phase 4 – Degree Programs
Upon successful completion of the DTE-P or DTE-S, students may elect to follow Bachelor degree programs (currently under development) in the following areas to be offered by the BHER partner universities: Community Health Professional, Community Development and Extension Studies, Public Policy and Administration, Human Rights and Equity Studies and Liberal Arts.

Image of this process on the following link: http://refugeeresearch.net/ms/bher/about-bher/bher-model/#phase2a

It is also important to take into account that the students in Kenya are following these course simultaneously with other students in Canada.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

Taking into account that this is an ongoing project, the results are not possible to be measured. However, for now the project is working very well and one of the best indicators is the fact that the model used is being recognised as effective and for example UNHCR is monitoring it closely in order to take this model on board of their other activities.

Since the facilities are one of the main expenses, the system is sustainable following this initial period and should be able to run after this first pilot phase.

Resources used in the initiative

The overall budget of the project is estimated to 6 million Canadian dollars.

4.5 million will come from the Canadian government.

The remaining amount is a contribution by the partners.

Additional donations include Kenyan government (land for the campus), UNHCR (computers, technical equipment, construction of the campus).

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

Taking into account that this is an ongoing project, the results are not possible to be measured. However, for now the project is working very well and one of the best indicators is the fact that the model used is being recognised as effective and eg UNHCR is monitoring it closely in order to take this model on board of their other activities.

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