NAIROBI, Kenya, April 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Refugees in Kakuma refugee camp in the scrubland of northwestern Kenya now have access to higher education, following the launch by Jesuit Refugee Service of a distance-education project in collaboration with U.S. universities.
The Jesuit Commons — Higher Education at the Margins project offers a dynamic and flexible model of higher education to refugees, promoting education as a fundamental human right. In Kakuma, at least 100 refugees are expected to participate in the new program during the first year.
The Liberal Studies program is a three-year track leading to a Diploma (similar to an Associates Degree in the U.S.), and focuses on humanities, leadership, business studies and communication. Regis University in Denver, Colo., offers the academic accreditation for the program.
"I am very happy to participate in this," said Bol, a refugee from Sudan. "Life in a refugee camp is very difficult without access to further studies. Now that I study I know that I will be of use for my community in the future," he said.
Traditionally, few refugees have had access to higher education. An Ethiopian student in Kakuma told JRS that not having the possibility to continue his university education contributed considerably to his trauma. Now, 20 years after he arrived in Kakuma, he can finally study again.
Currently, 35 students from eight different nationalities are studying for a Diploma in Applied Liberal Studies and a second group of students will start in September.
"While most refugees have access to primary and some to secondary education, we have seen a strong demand for higher education," says Christine Mwaniki, JRS Kenya Director. "This program brings refugees into a wider academic community, engages their minds and equips them with skills they can apply today to improve the lives of those around them," she adds.
JRS faced a huge challenge to overcome the infrastructural deficiencies at the remote Kakuma location, where there was no electricity or internet. But, by partnering with companies like Safaricom, Libco and Microsoft those challenges were overcome.
Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
SOURCE Jesuit Refugee Service