In local partnership with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Eastern Africa, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus that supports the redevelopment of war-torn communities in the area, Jesuit Worldwide Learning supports the learning center in Kakuma, Kenya. Initially established in 1992 to accommodate south Sudanese fleeing civil war, the Kakuma Refugee Camp has changed significantly in terms of its population and demographics.
Until recently, though the camp also accommodated refugees from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia and Rwanda, the Sudanese were by far the largest group – at one time numbering more than 60,000. Following the 2005 peace agreement between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) and the Sudanese Government, this balance has changed due to large-scale repatriation. Figures from June 2009 indicated that approximately 45,000 Sudanese refugees had returned to Sudan.
Somalis are replacing the Sudanese population. In response to the influx of refugees fleeing clan warfare in their country, the UNHCR is transporting large numbers of Somalis to the recently vacated facilities at Kakuma. UNHCR figures dated 31 October 2009 indicate that the population of Kakuma totals 61,285 of which 36,695 are Somalis – more than double the next largest group, the Sudanese, and 8 times that of the Ethiopian population. A total of more than 100,000 Somalis are ultimately expected to be accommodated at Kakuma. The refugees spend 17 years or more in the camp, some may never leave the camp. The local people are the Turkana, known for their longneck women with beads necklaces who give away their right to marry by choosing to be educated. Once the women are educated, they have to give away their beads therefore confirming their unmarriageable status.
Kakuma has been at the forefront of offering tertiary education to refugees. Since 1998, the University of South Africa (UNISA) has enabled refugees to study through its postal-based distance learning programs. Fees have been covered through JRS Scholarships with additional support in the form of some IT access, library facilities, examination supervision and practical issues such as the provision of lamps to enable study at night. After the Dadaab Camp was shut down by the government in 2016, the Kakuma Refugee Camp managed to remain open and continues to offer a tremendous support for refugees.
These images feature several of the Kakuma Site Students, where we work and the people that make it all possible.