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Friday, September 28, 2018

For Many Refugees, Higher Education Comes In Tablets | Education - Bright Magazine

Virtual education is bringing university courses to refugee camps. Is it making a difference? says Halima Gikandi at BRIGHT Magazine.
Ayan Abdi Ahmed (20) chats with friends and colleagues in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, congratulating her on being accepted into a Canadian program that offers the winners a full scholarship to college.
Photo: Nichole Sobecki/VII/Redux.

The full brunt of the sun pierces through the plastic roof of Hassan Noor’s one-room home in Dadaab, a refugee camp located in northeastern Kenya. Aged 27, all Noor can think about is whether or not he will pass his final exams. When the heat becomes too much, he rolls a school brochure into a makeshift fan to cool himself down.

Noor considers walking 20 minutes to a local school, where at least the shade from nearby trees offers some relief. Or maybe he could hitchhike to the nearest market, where he could finally eat something and drink a cool soda. But there’s no time to waste. Exams are approaching and Noor is determined to pass all of his units this time.

For many university students in Kenya, September has been filled with bouts of cramming for exams, final reviews with professors, and last-minute study sessions with classmates. The pressure is real for Noor, who is in his final year at Kenyatta University and hopes to graduate in December with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. But unlike his peers in Nairobi, Noor joins the classroom digitally, over 400 kilometers away in Dadaab, which as of July 2018 hosts over 209,000 refugees...

Noor’s virtual education program is the byproduct of a growing international effort to provide refugees and migrants with higher education degrees that can lead to employment. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), only 1 percent of eligible refugees have access to higher education, compared with 36 percent of young people worldwide. The growing size, severity, and protracted nature of global crises have brought new urgency to providing accredited education for adults, especially those who might be thrust into new settings without adequate knowledge and skills to find employment...

In 2013, educators from a consortium of academic institutions like York University in Toronto, Canada and Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya set out to rectify the dearth of higher education opportunities for refugees. They established Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER), a program that uses digital learning to provide accredited diplomas and degrees to eligible refugees in the Dadaab camps and surrounding region.