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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010147

The Educational Pursuits and Obstacles for Urban Refugee Students


in Kenya
Lucy Karanja
luckaranja@gmail.com

Abstract
The Sudanese refugee children in Nairobi, 250, 000 refugees in Kenya by 2005, with the
Kenya, face xenophobia and discriminative urban Sudanese comprising the second largest refugee
refugee policies, which preclude their admission into population in the country [3].
public elementary schools in the city. In turn, these Inadequate humanitarian assistance and
childrens enrolment in private schools in Nairobi is educational opportunities in refugee camps in Kenya
hindered by their parents or guardians precarious have resulted in an increase in the number of
socio-economic status. To enhance educational refugees leaving the camps and settling in Nairobi,
access for their children, a Sudanese refugee Kenyas capital city. By moving to the city, these
community in Nairobi established a school for their refugees hope to improve their livelihoods and find
children, despite their economic deprivation. Thus, alternative educational settings where their children
the current study investigated the educational can have more access and improved quality
experiences of the Sudanese refugee children at the education. To many of these refugees, their
Sudanese community school, by probing the childrens education is a means for a promising
multifaceted factors that produce and shape those future, whether in their home countries or for
experiences. The studys findings show that the integration in their countries of asylum. Indeed, the
community school provides many Sudanese children refugees view a well-educated population to be
in Nairobi with an opportunity to access education, critical in rebuilding their countries both
and a welcoming and secure learning environment. economically and socially [4].
However, poor school conditions and inadequate However, instead of fulfilling their aspirations in
resources preclude the provision of high quality Nairobi, urban refugees suffer harassment,
education. Additionally, the students deprived xenophobia, discrimination, exploitation and poverty
livelihoods in the city hamper their achievement to [5]. These challenges have resulted in deprived
their fullest potential. Collaboration between the livelihoods and limited access to basic social
UNHCR, Kenyan government, and the urban services, including education for refugee children
Sudanese refugee community has the potential to and youth. Despite the growing body of research on
improve these students learning conditions, and the precarious existence and survival mechanisms of
their future lives. urban refugees in Kenya and other African countries,
there is a paucity of research on the impact and
Key words: urban refugees; urban refugee education; implications of urban refugees legal status and
refugee educational settings livelihoods on the educational provision and support
1. Introduction for their children in urban spaces in countries of
asylum.
Kenya has hosted refugees from war-torn African Consequently, this study investigated the
countries for more than four decades. The numbers educational experiences of urban Sudanese refugee
of refugees seeking asylum in Kenya increased children at a Sudanese community school (hereafter
gradually, with a significant increase in 1992 when referred to as Baraka school [a pseudonym]),
refugees totaled approximately 427,000 [1]. This established by a Sudanese community in Nairobi,
number overwhelmed the Kenyan governments Kenya. I argue that the Sudanese communitys
capacity to admit and manage refugees, forcing the livelihoods and identities in an urban setting
government to hand over the refugee status influence their childrens educational experiences at
determining responsibility to the United Nations Baraka school. Thus, this study examined both
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In school and home factors that shape Sudanese
addition, the government introduced an encampment childrens educational experiences.
policy, which requires all refugees to reside in the
refugee camps until a suitable solution is available 2. Background
for them [2]. Numbers of refugees in Kenya have Despite recent efforts to expand educational
dropped since 1993 owing to voluntary repatriation access to refugee children, primary education
and resettlement. However, there were close to remains inaccessible to many of them in Nairobi. In

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010148

various ways, some Kenyan government policy in western countries of refugee resettlement
constrains refugee childrens access to education in including the U.S.A., Australia, and the UK. In
Nairobi. In the city council primary schools, refugee Africa, Moros [10] and Grabskas [11] studies in
parents and guardians are required to produce a Cairo, Egypt, are examples of the few studies that
proper registration document such as UNHCR have examined educational issues of Sudanese
mandate certificate in addition to the childs birth refugee children in relation to their parents or
certificate. Although many refugee children in guardians legal and socio-economic status and
Nairobi are born in Kenya, they do not have birth survival mechanisms. These studies revealed that
certificates, which hinder their enrolment into public lack of legal documents and economic hardships of
schools in Nairobi. However, proper documentation Sudanese refugees were the biggest obstacles to
does not necessarily guarantee access to education by enrolling and maintaining their children in schools.
urban refugee children. Other barriers, such as The few studies that have examined and documented
discrimination and extortion, have prevented the the challenges that Sudanese students face in their
enrolment of refugee children in some city public schooling in the U.S.A, Australia, and the UK [12,
primary schools [6]). 13, 14], respectively, underscore the importance of
Although Kenya introduced free primary nurturing school environments and parental support
education in 2003 providing for the enrolment of in promoting the academic well-being of Sudanese
refugee children into public schools, many urban refugee children.
refugees are not aware of this opportunity, or lack In the Kenyan context, issues pertaining to the
the capacity to benefit from it [7]). The introduction education of Sudanese refugee children in Nairobi
of free primary education in Kenya has also have been reported as vignettes amidst information
increased the numbers of Kenyan children accessing on other services essential to refugees [15]. This has
education, resulting in limited spaces, resources and prevented an in-depth exploration of the concerns
infrastructure, and deterioration quality of education. facing the education of urban refugee children. Thus,
Some school administrators refuse to enroll refugee there is a need for more studies into the educational
children in order to preserve spaces for Kenyan challenges and needs of Sudanese and other refugee
children. children to enable the development of responses and
Like Kenyan parents, refugee parents and interventions to their problems.
guardians whose children access free primary Urban refugees establish self-help schools for
education must shoulder the burden of providing their children when faced with limited opportunities
school-related materials including notebooks, or difficulties in enrolling their children into public
textbooks, uniforms, and, in some cases, a desk for or private schools. Sudanese refugees have,
ones child. The precarious economic situations of particularly, been found to actively find educational
refugees in Nairobi make it difficult for many of solutions in urban spaces, especially through creating
them to support their children education, even when their own schools in which to educate their children
access is available [8]. [16]. Thus, this study focused on Baraka school,
Refugee children from all groups face somewhat which is a self-help Sudanese school in Nairobi. The
similar educational access and support challenges in main aim of this study was to acquire a deeper
Nairobi. However, Sudanese children face more understanding of the educational needs and
barriers in getting adequate support for their experiences of the urban Sudanese children, as they
education. Somali, Ethiopian, and Congolese have been influenced by their school conditions and
refugees are entrepreneurs and have managed to livelihoods in Nairobi.
engage in businesses in the informal economy in
Nairobi, which makes survival slightly bearable [9]. 2.1. Guiding questions and objectives
On the contrary, many Sudanese do not perceive The following key question guided this research:
themselves as entrepreneurs. Instead, their priority is What are the educational experiences of urban
to acquire an education, which they view as Sudanese refugee children at Baraka school in
instrumental to self-development. This has left the Nairobi? Probing questions that teased out the
Sudanese refugees more vulnerable to economic various factors affecting the childrens education
hardships in the city, limiting the support they included: What is the role of Baraka school in the
provide for their childrens education. lives of urban Sudanese refugee children in Nairobi?
Despite evidence of the deplorable socio- What is the nature of education at Baraka school?
economic status of urban refugees in Kenya, little How do the livelihoods of the Sudanese refugee
research has focused specifically on the educational children in Nairobi influence their educational
needs and experiences of their children, and ways in experiences?
which their livelihoods in an urban setting shape This studys objectives were to:
those experiences. Research on the problems 1. Describe Baraka schools conditions and
affecting Sudanese refugee childrens education is, in resources and examine ways in which they
particular, lacking not only in African cities but also

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010149

promote or hinder effective learning by the 4.1. Theoretical frameworks


Sudanese refugee children.
2. Examine the childrens home situations and This research is grounded in two complementary
their implications for their education. theoretical frameworks, namely, critical education
3. Determine the educational needs and challenges theories and postcolonial theories. These theories
of Sudanese refugee children and suggest critically examine ways in which power plays out in
sustainable school-based interventions and social and institutional contexts to oppress the other,
strategies for improving their conditions in resulting in inequalities and injustices for such
Nairobi. groups. Based on the premise that the urban
Sudanese refugee children are an oppressed and
3. Context: Baraka School marginalized group, critical education theoretical
views [17] were useful in examining the
Baraka school was established by a Sudanese multidimensional issues facing the education of
refugee community in Nairobi, who had moved from Sudanese refugee children not only from the internal
refugee camps in Kenya in search for better politics of schooling, but also from the wider social
livelihoods as well as education opportunities. The and historical positioning of schooling.
school was started in response to the limited With a focus on challenging and resisting
educational opportunities for Sudanese refugee dominant views that entrench (post)colonial ideas,
children in public and private schools in Nairobi. In coding, and rigid views of the other, postcolonial
addition, the Sudanese community hoped that the theory [18] was useful in revealing the hegemonic,
school would give their children a sense of belonging essentialist, and stereotypical views of the UNHCR,
and community, and enable them to maintain their Kenyan government and the local community
culture. This Sudanese refugee community envisions towards the Sudanese refugees in Nairobi. As is a
educating their children as preparing them to return common practice in many refugee-hosting countries,
to Sudan to rebuild the country. the UNHCR and the Kenyan government constructed
The school has an estimated population of 300 and produced the urban Sudanese refuges in this
students, a few of whom are Kenyan nationals, a study as marginal and lacking, and held the
gesture that serves to enhance the schools popular perception of urban refugees as passive,
relationship with the local community. The school is dependent, and economic burdens to the host country
impoverished, with small corrugated iron sheeting [19]. These perceptions result in discriminative urban
rooms serving as classrooms. Teachers, resources, refugee policies, which deny urban refugees their
and facilities are in adequate. Because of its status rights to various social services, including education
as community self-help establishment, Baraka school for their children. Because these refugees are
is registered with the Ministry of Gender, Children prevented from securing jobs and obtaining work
and Social Development (MGCSD) in Kenya as permits, they persist in poverty, resulting in
opposed to the Ministry of Education, Science and impoverished school and home conditions for their
Technology (MOEST). However, the school follows children.
the Kenyan national education system and
curriculum. 4.2. Methodology and methods
Baraka school receives no funding from either
This research employed qualitative methods for
the Kenyan government or the UNHCR and depends
data collection and analysis. The guiding qualitative
on donors to meet its operating costs. Initially, no
principles, data sources, collection strategies, and
school fees were charged to students at Baraka
analysis are explained below.
school. However, soaring costs of living in Nairobi
and insufficient donor funding has compelled the 4.2.1. Ethnographic case study
school to charge a fee of Kenya Shillings (KSh.) 150
This study is situated within the qualitative
(approximately C$ 2.50) per student each term. This
interpretive philosophy, which emphasizes the
is in addition to the cost of school uniforms and other
understanding and interpretation of peoples
supplies that the students parents/guardians have to
meanings of their actions within the system of
meet. These expenses lay a heavy economic burden
meaning to which those actions belong [20]. Thus,
on the students and their guardians and/or parents.
this study utilizes ethnographic case study
4. The Research methodology and methods as appropriate approaches
that provide access to the meanings that guide the
The following sub-sections provide an overview participants behavior [21]. Additionally, the
of this studys investigational framework including ethnographic case study approaches allowed me as
theories and methods. the researcher to investigate and attain some
understanding and provide rich descriptions of the
Sudanese refugee childrens identities, beliefs,

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010150

values, and attitudes, and their unique educational Students positive school experiences; Education at
experiences at Baraka school. the school; Students challenges; Resilience, and
Support challenges.
4.2.2. Participants
Eighteen participants were interviewed including 5. Results
11 students, 2 teachers, 1parent, 3 guardians, and a This studys findings show that the educational
UNHCR representative. Because only the student experiences of urban Sudanese refugee children
participants information will be reported in this comprised challenges and opportunities. The
paper, I will not provide other participants challenges resulted mainly from their precarious
information. Student interviewees included four livelihoods in the city, especially because many of
females and seven males between 14 to 20 years old them were without parents or relatives to provide for
and in elementary grades six, seven, and eight. Apart their needs. The opportunities derived from Baraka
from one female student who was born at the refugee school as a place where the students accessed
camp, the other students moved to the camp between education, which they hoped would lead to a bright
ages 4 and 14. All but one male student left the future. The students positive school experiences,
Sudan without their families while the female school- and home-related shortcomings, and their
students went to the refugee camp in the company of coping strategy are discussed here.
relatives.
The students stayed at a refugee camp for a 5.1. Positive school experiences
period ranging from one to 11 years, where they From the testimonials of participants in this
attended primary schools at various grades. Except study, Baraka school has provided educational access
the student who was born at the refugee camp, all the to many Sudanese children in Nairobi, who might
others attended school sporadically owing to have difficulties accessing other educational settings
inadequate educational opportunities at the camp, such as public or private schools. Student
lack of documentation at the camp, frequent participants unanimously described Baraka school
movements from the refugee camp to other countries and its general atmosphere as positively impacting
or parts of Kenya en route to Nairobi, and lack of their social and educational lives. Student A pointed
accommodation once outside the refugee camp. Ten out that If there is no school here for the refugees, it
of the 11 students interviewed were old for their will be very difficult for the refugees to be in the
grade levels, and, indeed, elementary school, which Kenyan schools. Student B reiterated the schools
is an indication of disrupted education and gaps in importance by stating that, [Baraka] is wonderful
their schooling as they transited from the Sudan to because many of us were not in school when it was
Nairobi. Additionally, some of them have no families not there but nowadays many [Sudanese] kids are in
or relatives in Nairobi, keeping them out of school school.
for intervals of time as they seek accommodation. By The students observed that Baraka school
the time of our interviews, these students had been provided an educational opportunity to poor
attending Baraka school for an average of 1 years. Sudanese children, who could not afford the high
4.2.3. Data collection and analysis fees and many supplies required in public schools in
Nairobi. Student Cs remark is representative of the
Consistent with the ethnographic case study other students views regarding the relative
approaches, I stayed at Baraka school for four affordability at Baraka school: It is good here
months and collected data through multiple methods because if you go to government school they would
namely; semi-structured interviews, participant just allow those who can afford the fees that they
observation, and document analysis. Each student charge and the things they want. But here, they do
was interviewed in one session lasting between 30 to not charge a lot of money for school fees. Factors
60 minutes. All interviews took place over several such as the Sudanese students advanced age and
Saturdays at the school, as many of the students their legal status in the city prevented their admission
attend school on Saturdays for private or group into public schools in Nairobi. In Baraka school,
studying. The interviews were audio-taped and field however, they were admitted unconditionally and
notes were taken. they did not face discrimination either during
I applied an inductive thematic analysis approach admission or in form of unfair treatment in the
in order to discover overarching themes that emerged school, which they experienced in some public
from my participants data, as well as from the schools.
observations and documents. This analysis was Baraka school also acted as a safety net for the
achieved by following Lincoln and Gubas [22] three students, offering them a sense of security and
analytical steps namely; unitizing textual data into belonging. The students expressed a sense of safety
idea units, coding categories, and integrating in being among other students, and some teachers,
categories. This process resulted in five overarching with whom they shared the same culture and
themes, which are discussed below. These include: language. A shared language between the students

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010151

and some teachers not only fostered communication through rote memorization, and their creativity and
among them but also facilitated learning course critical thought were stifled.
content. Student D noted that: [At Baraka], if I However, student participants in this study were
don't understand something in English, the teacher oblivious of the negative effects of the pedagogical
will explain to me in Kiswahili. If I don't understand strategies at the school. These students evaluated
it in Kiswahili then the teacher will explain to me in good teaching based on whether teachers attended
my mother tongue. The use of students native class or not, and on their availability to answer their
languages also allowed parents and guardians to questions and provide other educational help that
attend school conferences and, using their native they needed. Students F commented: The teachers
languages with translation, discuss school matters, here teach well. They make sure they attend class to
and advise their children regarding good behaviors teach. Student G added that, Teachers come to
and study practices. class. They teach us well and answer our questions.
At Baraka school, the students needs and They are committed to helping us even after school
shortcomings were understood and accommodated hours. Although a few students expressed a
by the school administration. Students were not sent different opinion regarding teachers class
home for wearing non-uniforms to school, failing to attendance, they still used class attendance as a
pay school fees on time, or for lack of required measure of good teaching. According to student H,
school supplies. Instead, the school made attempts at Teaching is not good this year. Some teachers can
supporting the students by allowing them time to pay stay without coming to class to teach so that makes
school fees, and buying a few text books that one to be discouraged. If teachers can come [to class]
students could borrow to use at home. Cognizant of always, that can make you to know more. Clearly
the difficulties that these students had in securing the students uncritically perceived teachers as
basic needs, the school also provided lunch everyday sources of knowledge and they as recipients of this
to the students. For many of these students, this was knowledge.
the only meal for the day as indicated by Student E:
Sometimes you go home and there is no food. It 5.3. Challenges at Baraka school
becomes frustrating. If there is no food in school, Despite the general atmosphere at Baraka school
then I will not have any food for the day. being supportive of students learning, the students
identified schools location next to a main road as
5.2. Education at Baraka school
exposing them to safety risks. As the students
This theme related to the kind of curriculum and observed, vehicles had occasionally veered off the
pedagogical strategies employed at the school. road and narrowly missed hitting students playing or
Students interviewed in this study praised the walking by the school. The school is also located
Kenyan curriculum of education used at Baraka near a landfill, which is a potential health hazard to
school. They expressed satisfaction that the the students. As one student remarked, When it
curriculumits content and range of subjects was rains water mixed with dirty materials from the
not only meeting their present educational needs but dump comes inside the classrooms. Additionally,
would enable them to meet their future goals. the students reported that the school structures,
However, a further analysis of these participants which are made of iron sheeting, made the
views using critical education theories and literature classrooms to be very hot during hot weather and
on curriculum relevance revealed that the curriculum cold in cold weather. These extreme conditions made
used at Baraka school fell short of meeting present the students uncomfortable in the classrooms,
and future needs of the Sudanese refugee children adversely effecting their concentration.
adequately. This curriculum lacks components that Other problems included a shortage of teachers
would address the special needs of refugee children and educational facilities such as textbooks and a
such as psychosocial needs and practical knowledge library. In many of the classrooms at Baraka school,
and survival skills, which are necessary for children the teacher was the only person with a copy of the
suffering the effects of war and displacement. textbook for the course he or she was teaching.
Regarding teaching and learning procedures at the Consequently, the students observed that it was
school, I observed that to a large extent, teachers difficult for them to do independent or extra studying
used whole-class, teacher-centered methods, with at home or to complete homework. In most cases,
minimal teacher-students and student-student teachers wrote assignments on the chalkboard and
interactions. Teacher-student interactions were the students copied it in their note books, an exercise
limited mainly to the teacher asking questions and that reduced the teaching time allocated for the
the students providing answers. In addition, teachers lesson.
did not use teaching aids to enhance their lessons. The students found the lack of extra-curricular
The classroom walls were bare; visuals such as facilities such as sports and games equipment to be
charts, maps, and drawings were conspicuously disappointing, especially because many of them were
absent. Consequently, students learned mainly quite active in sports. Student J depicted the

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010152

students frustration from a lack of these facilities: problems because I have been in critical conditions
People here are good in sports but we do not even when I was very young but now as long as I get an
have a playground. We like to play matches with education I am fine. Student A added that despite
other schools, [but] we do not even have balls, the hardships in Nairobi, he was persevering for the
sports uniforms, and nets for playing. Although sake of education: Things are hard in Nairobi but
these students often times won matches with other when you are looking for something it is better to
schools, they indicated that they would perform even struggle so that you can gain something. We are just
better if they had the necessary facilities, which trying to survive.
would boost the schools esteem. By adopting resilience as a coping strategy, the
Living in the city without adequate and stable students in this study were hopeful that
provision presented the students with difficulties. circumstances, especially in the school, would
While some students lived with close relatives, improve gradually. They did not want to demand
others, especially the males, lived with other changes, thereby losing their educational vision.
students, or with guardians with whom they were not Although they would appreciate improvements in the
related. The students reported that they relied on school, they were ready to wait for a time when that
their parents, other relatives or friends in Sudan, would be possible, as indicated by student C: It is
Kenya or in western countries for provision of basic not a must [to have changes]. If there is help then I
needs and school fees and supplies. Such provision would like to see the changes but if not then it is
was not always guaranteed even for students who okay. It can take time for the donors to get some
lived with parents, due to the precarious economic money. Student G reiterated this patience in
situations of their benefactors, whether in Nairobi, improvements at the school: I have seen other
back in the Sudan, or in western countries. Student K schools like the City Council ones. They are good
and his brothers experiences are typical of many of and it would be good if they did this one like that
the students attending Baraka school, We have our but maybe one time they will do it like that.
father who is in Sudan so sometimes he tries to send Things cannot be done at once. Undoubtedly, these
a little money. Sometimes there is no money. For students exhibited tolerance for the situations that
example, we have five months where we have no they faced, and appreciation for having Baraka
money so we just survive like that. Consequently, school as a place from which to gain education.
students reported that they were constantly anxious
over how to obtain school fees and other supplies, 5.5. Support challenges and opportunities
rent money, and even food and shelter. For some, Interview data from student participants revealed
this anxiety impacted on their concentration on their that the Sudanese community supported the
school work. Sudanese childrens education partially, providing
Because of financial strain, almost all the student mainly advice, school fees and other supplies, and
interviewees indicated that they walked long needs at home such as accommodation and food,
distances to and from school, leaving them tired albeit with difficulties. Refugee-ship and urban
through the day and when they returned home. From living complicated livelihoods for the Sudanese
the students reports, these problems affected their refugee community in this study, presenting
school attendance; some attended school irregularly challenges in their efforts to support their childrens
due to lack of provision of one kind or other. education at Baraka school. The students interviewed
in this study were aware of their parents and
5.4. Resilience
communitys deprived situation in the city, hence,
The student participants expressed ambivalence their limitation in supporting their education beyond
about their existence in Nairobi with no provision providing school supplies. As student J commented,
from the UNHCR or the Kenyan government. The parents have no power [to provide a lot of
However, they were hopeful that education would support] because they are foreigners and they are in
pave way for a bright future. These student the city so they don't have enough to help.
developed resilience as a psychological tool to help Unemployment in the city prevented parents and
them cope with the stress they experienced as a result guardians of the students from paying for school
of lack of stable livelihoods and provisions, and improvements such as better structures and facilities
inadequate facilities at school. Although the or even re-locating the school to a more secure site.
participants pointed out the various things that they The students observed the difficulties experienced by
thought were problematic at Baraka school, they did their parents and guardians in obtaining work permit
not want to be fixated on those problems as or even engaging in other income-generating
hindrances to their education. At least, these activities. Additionally, many of the parents and
participants tolerated these problems for the sake of guardians struggled to support their childrens
education. Student L, for example refused to let the education single-handedly, some of them as single
problems at school prevent her from working toward mothers with husbands either deceased or back in the
her goal of succeeding in school: I don't see Sudan with little or no support for the families in

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Nairobi. For example, two student interviewees aspects of their lives to include the need for proper
indicated that they lived with their mothers in nutrition, clean water, and sanitation, among others.
Nairobi while their fathers were in the Sudan, with However, this curriculum is mainly academic and
little support and communication from them. largely theoretical, with little emphasis on practical
Generally, students expressed a sense of helplessness knowledge and survival skills that are critical for the
regarding obtaining adequate support for their survival of urban Sudanese refugee children. By
education. utilizing an academic-oriented curriculum, the
With no exception, student participants in this assumption seems to be that all students will
study stated that the responsibility of making major progress along academic lines, and build careers
school improvementsbetter buildings, library requiring academic courses. However, based on the
facilities, and equipment for extra-curricular financial constraints facing many of the Sudanese
activitiesrested with a donor organization that students at Baraka school, it is evident that some of
provides funds towards the schools operating them may not pursue secondary education and, if
budget. According to them, the school would close if fortunate, may pursue various trades. Without a
the donor organization cut off its support to the curriculum that provides some life skills and
school. One student remarked that, When the vocational training, these students might graduate
donors don't have money, I think there will be no from primary school with few survival skills, which
school it will close down. Although the donor are critical for them whether in Kenya or back in the
organization continually provided funds for minor Sudan.
school improvements and repairs, other more costly Sinclair [23] differentiates between curricula for
developments in the school had not been addressed students in displaced and refugee situations, and for
due to lack of funds. Hence, the schools poor others not facing such situations. She observes that
conditions and inadequate resources have persisted. the educational curriculum for the former group of
Participants in this study did not expect the students gives priority to, [basic] learning and basic
UNHCR to support the school in any way, despite its knowledge for coping mentally and
mandate to care and provide for refugees. The physicallyalong with knowledge and practice that
students held to the mistaken believe that the will help promote a peaceful and values-/rights-
UNHCR provided assistance to refugees in camps based rebuilding of the war-torn communities (p. 2).
only. Hence, they should go back to the camps if Clearly, the traditional subject-focused Kenyan
they needed UNHCR provision. The students views curriculum of education does not address those
were summarized by student B in his statement that, issues for these Sudanese refugee children.
I don't think [the UNHCR] can help. This is an In order to make the curriculum relevant to the
urban center. The UNHCR requires refugees to stay urban refugee students needs, it should be enriched
in the camp. They assume that the person who with knowledge, skills, and messages that will
moves to the city has money. Clearly, these students facilitate current and future functioning and survival
were not aware of some new UNHCR initiatives of these children. The school can provide students
aimed at supporting urban refugees to be with practical knowledge and skills through basic
economically independent. For example, on two vocational training in areas such as agriculture,
different occasions, the school had received some carpentry, tailoring, and other skills in family
material support through micro-grants provided by studies, which students who cannot afford to
UNHCR to refugee self-help groups. Such assistance continue their education can use to earn a living.
suggests that the school might receive continuous Adding other life skills and values education through
support from the UNHCR if the refugee community programs such as health and nutrition, peace
petitions for it. education, human rights, and environmental
awareness would enrich the students lives while at
6. Discussion and Recommendations school and the lives of their community members
The problems facing the education of urban thereafter.
Sudanese refugee children in this study will have Accommodating the teaching of these skills and
negative influence on their future survival, that of messages into the teaching of normal subjects can be
their communities, and their host country, Kenya. difficult, especially given resource and teacher
constraints, and an overloaded curriculum. However,
6.1. Educational curriculum the school can set aside time after school, during
The Kenyan curriculum of education utilized at school holidays and study circles to teach these
Baraka school benefits Sudanese students by knowledge and skills.
providing them with basic competencies namely, 6.2. Pedagogical practices
reading, writing, and numeracy, which would enable
them to pursue learning. The curriculum also The predominantly traditional teaching styles
provides academic knowledge in various subjects used by teachers at Baraka school resulted in
such as science, which they can apply in dealing with banking education, which critical education theorists

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International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 1, Issue 3, September 2010154

have criticized for disempowering students. Such an enrolled at the school. Also, the UNHCR should take
education not only prevents students active more responsibility in supporting Baraka school,
participation in their learning but also presents a especially because it serves refugee children.
limited view of educations transformative potential Additionally, the urban Sudanese refugee community
through the denial of critical thinking skills, which should organize a lobby group that would petition
are essential for the improvement of the students the Kenyan government for funds that are available
academic and future lives. to public schools in Nairobi. Finally, the refugee
In teacher-dominated classrooms such those at community can organize fundraisers towards
Baraka school, knowledge that is supposed to identified school projects such as buying text books
empower students to engage as subjects in their and providing equipment for extra-curricular
world is reduced to information provided to the activities. The community can also solicit for
students by the teacher [24]). Indeed, teachers material donations from commercial businesses,
adopting the teacher-centered teaching strategies publishers, and charitable organizations.
consider information to constitute true knowledge.
This view of knowledge serves to de-humanize 7. Conclusion
students and reduce them to objects in their world. The focus of this paper is the educational
They become passive in the pursuit for true experiences of Sudanese refugee children in a school
knowledge that would be useful in resisting and established by their community. By focusing on this
challenging the oppressive forces that they face. school, this paper goes beyond the already
Because different students have varied learning documented educational access problems of urban
styles, teachers should present information in a refugee children to provide insights into the actual
variety of modes in order to meet the multiple conditions under which Sudanese refugee children in
learning styles of students in the classroom [25]. Nairobi get educated, and the quality of education
Effective instructional strategies are essential for the that those conditions produce. As demonstrated in
urban Sudanese students current and lifelong this paper, the urban Sudanese refugee children in
successful learning. Consequently the following this study are getting educated under impoverished
improved methods are suggested: (i) use of visual conditions. These conditions have resulted in low
aids and experiential learning. These include low- or quality education, which may be of questionable
no-cost teaching aids such as pictures/images, effectiveness in facilitating these childrens pursuit
diagrams, maps, and charts; (ii) cooperative learning of higher education and building careers for which
to include pair and small group activities; (iii) peer they aspire. The Sudanese refugee communitys
tutoring, which may involve one-on-one tutoring, efforts to support their childrens education are
class-wide reciprocal peer tutoring, or cross-age thwarted by their deprived livelihoods and other
tutoring [26]; (iv) authentic teacher-student discourse socio-political factors, which prevent them from
including authentic teacher questions, and dialogic engaging in economic activities in order to improve
instructional discourses such as whole class their livelihoods. However, the communitys
discussions and activities, student demonstrations, commitment to support their childrens education,
journals, and learning logs [27]. albeit with difficulties, is a powerful message to the
6.3. Educational support host government and the UNHCR about the
importance of educating refugee children, and the
Although the donor organization and the urban need to support that endeavor.
Sudanese refugees parents and guardians support Therefore, this paper underscores the importance
Baraka school students, additional support towards of educating refugee children effectively, to enable
improving the schools facilities and providing more them re-build their country, or make positive
teachers and resources is critical. Improved contributions in any other country where they may
educational support for the Sudanese refugee settle. Hence, collaborative efforts of all stakeholders
children at Baraka school has the potential to not in the education of these children are critical in
only enhance their academic achievements, but also providing an education that liberates them from
to produce well-adjusted people who are ready to socio-economic and political oppression.
take up their responsibilities in Sudan, Kenya, or
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