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Some Basic Data on Education Opportunities for Refugees in Nairobi and Kampala

Data collected in 2012 and 2014 on access, quality, relevance and learning environment - refugee education in Nairobi and Kampala

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The Nairobi Joint Assessment was launched within the context of a renewed focus among UNHCR and refugee agencies to promote education as a lasting solution and component of protection for refugees. Quality education that promotes relevant skills and is delivered in a safe environment enables refugees to live healthily and develop skills for the benefit of their community, as well as their own self reliance.

The report contributed to the baseline data necessary for the roll out of the Education Strategy for refugees in Nairobi, which is also informed by UNHCR’s Global Education Strategy and targets of the Education Act developed by the Kenyan Ministry of Education (MoE).

At present, many refugees in Nairobi do not have access to quality, relevant education delivered in a safe environment. Through a variety of methods and data collection instruments, a team of agencies co-ordinated by UNHCR and Xavier Project assessed five key areas regarding education for refugees in Nairobi:

- Access

- Quality

- Relevance

- Protection and well-being

- Collaboration and co-ordination

Access was the first area looked at, since the quality, relevance and safety of the education provided is only of interest if the education is accessible. 50% of refugees of the age to be receiving education were found to be accessing education in Nairobi. At primary level the enrolment rate was 65%, and this number decreases to 33% at secondary level. The study also found that an inability to pay school fees was the largest barrier to enrolment.

It was impossible for this assessment to fully determine the quality of teaching in Kenyan schools. Therefore, quality was measured in terms of pupil: teacher ratios, pupil: textbook ratios, and perceptions of the quality of education from various stakeholders. A number of variations were found between public and private schools. 65% of students said that the Kenyan schools they were now studying in were better than their old school in their country of origin.

Regarding relevance, 47% stated that the Kenyan education system adequately prepared them in case they returned to their country of origin. However, 75% of respondents who had received an education in Kenya said that their qualifications had not helped them to find employment.

In terms of protection and well-being, 80% of in-school respondents claimed that being a refugee did not affect their school experience. However, 50% did not feel confident approaching a teacher on areas of protection, 50% deemed the school sanitary conditions to be inadequate, and 40% were not satisfied with the school food. Issues of safety were confirmed by observations from the research team. 50% also did not feel that their home was a conducive place for learning.

When it came to collaboration and co-ordination, stakeholders reported that collaboration is not structured and is more based on needs arising.

The key findings were studied and discussed by all agencies so that recommendations could be given that would feed into the strategy for refugee education in Nairobi. For improving access to education these included livelihood support, scholarship support and institutional support for schools. For quality of education these included supporting pupil: teacher ratios by providing extra teachers, supporting schools with material resources, and working with MoE and City Education Department (CED) to support the quality of teaching. For relevance of education, these included mentorship programmes and encouraging cultural diversity in schools. For protection issues these included improving the physical infrastructures of schools and sensitizing teachers on the challenges of refugee students at all levels. For collaboration and co-ordination, these included improving communication between refugee parents and schools, structuring collaboration among UNHCR and other agencies working in education, and improving collaboration between NGO agencies, MoE, and CED.


In a rapid assessment conducted by Xavier Project in 2012 in Kampala and updated in 2014 around 50% of respondents who considered themselves of school going age were missing out on formal education. This amounts to thousands of young people who are not able to go to school. In surveys conducted in 2012 and 2014 by far the biggest barrier to accessing education is the financial barrier. Examples of capacity building of schools in Kampala have proven that schools are open to reducing admission costs for refugees. For instance, between 2009 and 2010 St Paul’s Primary school in Nsambya Kampala reduced termly admission fees from 35,000 UGX for nationals to 22,500 UGX for refugees after being supported by books, infrastructure and training from a local NGO. At Katwe Primary school fees were eliminated for refugees after a donation from the same NGO and the number of refugees at the school increased from 47 to 450.

Headmasters in schools in Kampala also revealed other barriers to accessing education not highlighted by the parents in surveys. The Headmaster of St Pauls explained that refugee children dropped out of school when they were struggling with English and could not keep up with children many years their junior. Community leaders also assert that refugees drop out because of bullying from school mates and even teachers. Others drop out for culturally sensitive reasons. For example, girls drop out of school early to get married or to help with domestic chores. By aged 14, 20% more boys are attending school than girls.

For refugees who do attend school the quality of education can be low. Teacher:Pupil ratios can exceed 100 and on average refugees fare worse than local students in exams. Refugee parents are very poorly represented on Parent Teacher Associations or Board of Governors and do not take an active involvement in the education of their children. It is important that refugee parents feel part of the school community. It is important that the school community is made stronger so that the community can be held accountable for the quality of the education delivered in each school. Schools in Kampala need to be supported with training, infrastructure and materials so that they can help reduce the barriers to accessing education. 


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Hi Luisa,
If I may, my Name is Edmund Lang'at and I too work for Xavier Project. Xavier Project fuses both research and project activities in its interventions on issues concerning education. Through the mentioned research, Xavier Project in Kenya has initiated some women empowerment activities among the refugee population. Initiative focuses on creating awareness among refugees on the importance of taking their girl child to school and the legislative frameworks that seek to punish parents who do not take their children to school. In addition, Xavier Project has a school visitation programme which targets to empower teachers in various schools on new teaching approaches on persons of concerns such as refugees as well as train them on the rights of such population. In Uganda ,Xavier Project initiated a mobile library project which target schools in Kampala. One of the barriers in accessing education among children in Kampala was the inadequate access to reading materials as well as that personal touch with children who have difficulties in learning.
On the other hand the Kenyan government has initiated some considerable initiatives in an effort to combat some of these barriers. For instance, together with some partners initiated distribution of sanitary towels to girls in remote areas of the country and outlawed some cultural practices such as FGM which has for years been a barrier to access to education.

There is still a lot that needs to be done and Xavier Project hopes to do in future.

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