Refugee children in New Primary School Eastleigh share limited resources

A learner drinks water at New Eastleigh Primary School. Photo: courtesy

Like any other school, entering this learning institution, based in Eastleigh Nairobi you are welcomed with the lively sound of happy innocent carefree children. They are jumping up and down as they shout without care within their classrooms in this school without a playing field.

This is New Eastleigh Primary Schools gifting educational lifeline to many refugee children seeking to satisfy their thirst for knowledge.

The school head teacher Tala Hassan says that, on arrival, most kids don’t have requisite documents like birth certificates to enable them register on National Education Management Identification System (NEMIS).

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Hassan says without such documents like birth certificate the particulars of the child seeking education can’t be captured in the Government system thus he/ she ends up not receiving capitation funds or leaning resources from the State.

Hassan adds with limited resources and unlimited enthusiasm from the dedicated teacher — striving to educate the eager students for a better future in a foreign land — the only home they know — is not a walk in the park.

However, preferring survival New Eastleigh Primary has to struggle to keep education running for the needy learners. The youthful and dedicated head teacher adds that besides financial inadequacy, lack of learning materials, language barriers, cultural differences and cultural shock threaten to derail their hopes, expectation and dreams.

Interestingly, much as the constitution gifts free primary education for all, the refugee integrated schools aren’t inclusive in the plan despite the fact that some children born by refugee mothers.

Such a situation has forced schools to rely on NGOs for support. However, since NGO funding isn’t constant, the schools budgeting often runs in a limbo. New Eastleigh Primary used to be supported by an NGO but the harsh economic times have resulted to scarcity of funds.

“These days whenever we seek for alms, the answer is, we are also struggling under these unassailable economic conditions,”   Hassan told education news.

Resultantly, this leaves most refugee integrated schools and the refugees to cut their coat according to their size.  Disturbingly, besides the financial challenges some refugee children hail from troubled homes.

“This possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is reflected in the students emotions and behaviours resulting in vehemence conduct,’’ sadly noted Hassan, adding student fights are commonplace.

He says having done some guiding and counselling sessions in college, we are duty bound to resolve the fights extending to homes at no cost.

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Amidst such difficulties,  we  have  to talk diplomatically  as we pray for a better sponsor to expand  our  reach not only  in gifting education  but food and  healthcare, guiding and counselling and emotional support, to the students and their  bellicose  parents,”  laughingly pleaded  Hassan.

However,  with the  refugees integrated schools not limited to Nairobi’s Eastleigh , Elimu Yetu Coalition National Chief Joseph Waskhongo  suggests  that the Government ought to enhance  refugees in NEMIS  in order  to capture capitation .

“Since  some  students have never  been captured   in  NEMIS,  the Ministry should streamline NEMIS  for inclusivity,  by the Government sticking to  the policy of gifting  education to all children in Kenya, including refugees,”  he said.

Although Hassan agrees that the Government ought to actualise her policy of education for all including refugees,  on  December 31, 2023 the Department for Refugees Services revealed Kenya hosts 531, 911  refugees and 152,951 asylum seekers mainly living in Dadaab and Kakuma  camps  and 91, 000 others spread in other urban areas mainly Nairobi.

With an ever increasing refugee population, the Global Education 2023 Report by the United Nations High Commissioner says majority of refugee children have 100 plus schools to attend in the refugee camps and funded by UNHCR and partners.

Out of the 691,868 refugees, 164, 000 students are enrolled in ECDE, Primary, and Secondary schools implementing the Kenyan curriculum after Somalia broke in 1990.

However , after over 30 years of trying to help,  following  scams  of Kenyans  registering as refugees and refugees using the camp as a spring board  to go abroad, human trafficking cases and al shabaab setting  homes  in the camps  — donor fatigue seems to have stepped in , thus schools  remain   underfunded, and overcrowded camp schools face acute shortage of basic school inputs and classrooms, textbooks and teachers.

By Amoto Ndiewo

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