Learning together: Inclusive education for refugees in Kenya

19 June 2020


Djohan Shahrin / Shutterstock.com
Children running in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Education for refugees cannot be neglected. As displacement from crises – conflict or disaster – often lasts a decade or more, learners risk missing out on their education and training if they are not enrolled in school or other institutions in their new home. They must therefore be welcomed into their new education system.

In Kenya, major steps are underway to ensure that the country’s young refugees are integrated into the national education system. One of the major reasons is that inclusive education is the only durable solution available that also boosts social cohesion and creates diversity in the classroom, a benefit that can extend way beyond schools. It also carries many important benefits for learners and teachers – such as access to education grants and scholarships, teaching and learning materials, school feeding programmes, and health and sanitary resources, among others.

For World Refugee Day, celebrated on 20 June, the Ministry of Education in Kenya shared insights from their journey in creating one education system for all.

What are the benefits of children and youth – be they refugees or Kenyan citizens – learning together?


The harmonization of education and training services across the country helps prevent a parallel system of education for refugee learners. When the host community students learn side-by-side with refugees, they share both financial and non-financial resources, and ensure a non-discriminatory equitable education and training system. It also ensures that they get access to accredited learning institutions. Learning together also promotes peace and social cohesion, which is a critical goal of education. Since all learners and communities – be they refugees or host communities – have unique capabilities, learning together promotes sharing of knowledge as they learn from the strengths of one another.

Why is the inclusion of refugee learners important for Kenya’s future?

Kenya recognizes education as the main equalizer and a critical tool in advocating for peaceful co-existence across communities and nations of the world. Kenya also recognizes that educated refugee learners can make significant contributions to national development. Therefore, all youth including refugees and asylum-seeking learners are equipped with employable skills for self-reliance.

What are some of the key steps the government of Kenya is taking to integrate refugee education into the national system?

The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with development partners and other stakeholders, has developed a draft policy for inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers into the national education and training system. Currently, all camp-based schools follow the Kenyan curriculum and sit for Kenyan National Exams. Primary and secondary schools in the camps are headed by Principals registered by the Teacher Service Commission and all camp-based teaching personnel have also been trained on the Competency Based Curriculum. Incentive teachers (refugee teachers remunerated with incentive payments) receive online training from universities such as Kenyatta University and Masinde Muliro in their satellite campuses in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps respectively. Reefugee learners also participate in co-curricular activities and have been included in national scholarship programmes.

Is there a success story you would like to highlight?

The Kalobeyei settlement scheme is a real success story of integration between the host community and refugee learners. This is because the scheme creates a perfect opportunity for sustainability and sharing of resources, as well as knowledge sharing. The scheme was initiated as an integrated settlement with the aim of increasing the self-reliance of refugees, and to reduce dependency on humanitarian aid, while also supporting the development of the sub-county. Since 2014, Kalobeyei has progressively aimed to promote the self-reliance of refugee and host communities through integrated social services and economic stimulus. 

What are your hopes for all children and youth living in Kenya by 2030?

That ALL children and youth regardless of their ethnic backgrounds or country of origin, will access equitable, inclusive and quality education and training not only for employment but also self-employment and entrepreneurship. We hope that unemployment among the youth will either be completely eliminated or at least reduced to minimum levels. This will significantly reduce poverty levels among youth and households and build stronger economies. We also hope that education and training will equip learners with the skills, values, knowledge and attitude to develop resilience and train them to live in peaceful coexistence with others, and that upon repatriation, the education and training they have received will be of relevance to their context.

Supporting Kenya with crisis-sensitive educational planning

Since 2018, IIEP-UNESCO has supported the Kenyan Ministry of Education with strengthening its crisis-sensitive educational planning capacities, as part of the Institute’s programme with the European Union’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (EU-FPI). In 2019, IIEP supported the dissemination of Kenya’s Disaster Risk Management Policy in Turkana Country, one of two counties in Kenya that hosts refugees. Most recently, IIEP has been providing technical support to the Kenyan Ministry of Education as it establishes inclusive education and training for refugees and asylum seekers.