The Kenya Education Programme runs a teacher training course designed to help teachers understand their refugee students’ backgrounds and enable them to improve their performance and well-being.
There are over 8,000 refugee students in primary school and almost 5,000 in secondary school in Nairobi. They often behave differently to their Kenyan peers due to coming from vastly different cultures and education systems. They speak different languages and, if coming from Somalia, might not have been to school at all.
Many children have undergone traumatic experiences, while the vast majority live in a state of insecurity, economic uncertainty and fear. As a result, many refugee students find school challenging and their results suffer.
In a recent survey conducted with UNHCR, it was determined that only 47% of refugee school children believed that their education prepared them should they return to their home country, while 50% said they did not feel confident approaching a teacher on issues of protection. Racial discrimination is still prevalent at many schools; Somali students being called ‘Al Shaabab’ by both peers and teachers.
Due to instability at home, whether economic or familial, students need to see school as a secure and reliable place where they feel welcome. To achieve this, teachers need to understand the refugees’ cultures and backgrounds, and the right form of discipline and counselling.
The programme consists of six weekly sessions:
Workshop 1: Introduction
- Teachers relate the challenges they have faced teaching refugees
- Identify the challenges refugee students have faced in and outside school
Workshop 2: Refugee context
- Definition of a refugee and their legal status and rights in Kenya
- Overview of the cultures, languages, conflicts and education systems in each of the countries of origin.
- Tracing the journey refugees take to reach Nairobi.
Workshop 3: The psychosocial welfare of children
- How post-traumatic stress affects children’s behaviour.
- Best counselling practices.
Workshop 4: Conflict resolution and peace education
- The importance of resolving conflict both in and outside the classroom peacefully.
- The merits of positive discipline.
Workshop 5: Practising positive discipline and counselling
- Mock lessons to put in practice workshops 3 and 4
Workshop 6: Conclusion
- General recap
- Referral process: highlight the organisations teachers can refer specific cases to, with a particular focus on how to deal with cases of SGBV.
- Discussion on how to move ahead, for example setting up children’s clubs, putting on a cultural event, involving refugee parents in PTAs, and creating the position of an official refugee counsellor.
So far the workshops have been a success, with many teachers turning up and participating. They fill out questionnaires, work together in teams, and deliver presentations.
In two years Xavier Project will reach an estimated 28 schools and 600 refugee students. This will lead to improved performances at school, increased referral rates and reduced drop-out rates. Refugees will be safer at school, have better chances of employment and feel prepared to build a sustainable future when they return to their home country.