The study surveyed 122 current and former participants of a four-year higher education pilot programme run by global NGO, Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins in three camps in Kenya, Malawi and Jordan.
“The material was new, it was developed in the US, so most examples were US-based”
Participants studied either an accredited online diploma through US-based Regis University (57.9%); or a programme designed to enhance NGO provision and community life, including ESL and community health and education.
Limited access to resources such as textbooks and electricity was found to hamper students’ ability to keep up with courses.
One student explained: “When the books are not there completely, we are unable to do the work we are asked to do. When the internet is down completely, we cannot do something, or communicate with professors. For a head of the family, I find it very difficult to pull the two things together.”
Compounding the problem, the study found “a lack of understanding from US-based professors on the challenges faced by students at Kakuma [in Kenya], related to their ability to access course and study materials, while having to balance family and other responsibilities”, particularly regarding deadlines.
Another issue students raised was that content and pedagogy were not sufficiently adapted to the community. An interviewee in Kakuma said: “The material was new, it was developed in the US, so most examples were US-based.”
Students also expressed concern about what would happen once they completed their courses.
“As students will likely remain in camps long after graduation, educational activities need to be integrated more closely with post-educational work opportunities,” the paper advises.
“It would be great to create linkages between existing programs, so that students can enter a pipeline to other opportunities”
It also notes that many education programmes delivered in camps are not accredited or recognised by other institutions, making it difficult to continue their studies.
“It would be great to create linkages between existing programs, so that students can enter a pipeline to other opportunities even if they remain where they are,” the report’s author, Thomas Crea, told The PIE News.
“That is difficult to do, however, without donors making it a priority to strengthen systems, rather than single-issue programmes.”
Crea said environmental barriers also exist including flash floods, food shortages and students having to travel long distances across the camp to attend classes.
However, he added that students are interested in the chance to study and “made great sacrifices to do so”.
Since 2010, in partnership with JRS, professors and universities around the world, more than 1,900 students have studied in JC:HEM programmes.
Students said studying allowed them to support others in their communities and gave them a sense of empowerment.
“The opportunity for education thus provides an antidote for the despair and oppression inherent for those displaced from their home countries,” the study states.