Kenya: Opening up a career with education

South Sudan has been mired in civil war since December 2013. Despite moves toward peace, some 640,000 refugees have escaped to surrounding countries, with a fresh wave of 50,000 fleeing to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in the neighboring country of Kenya. It has been two years and six months since armed conflict started in South Sudan. In addition to food, water, medicine and other life-supporting supplies, the situation now calls for assistance with a view to both the medium- and long-term future of refugees who have no prospect of returning to their home country. AAR Japan, which has been active in the Kakuma Refugee Camp since 2014 in assisting its water supplies, constructing a pediatric ward and other areas, is now helping to provide secondary education inside the Camp.

Vision Secondary School constructed by AAR Japan
 (All photographs shown here were taken at Kakuma Refugee Camp on April 5th, 2016)

 School enrollment is rate at a mere rate of 2.3%

Some 70% of refugees from South Sudan are children under the age of 18. Regarding primary education for pupils aged 6 to 13, 65.3% of children now attend primary school, thanks to the assistance of many countries and organizations. On the other hand, only 2.3% of children aged 14-17 are able to receive a secondary education. As many children suffer from the trauma of losing their parent or siblings in fighting, children who have no access to education are more likely to fall victim to violence, drinking, or substance abuse, making it more difficult for them to escape poverty. Receiving a secondary education, on the other hand, may offer them an opportunity to go to a university, or open up their career in other ways. When they are able to return home after the termination of conflict in South Sudan, they can take part in rebuilding the country. So, AAR built a secondary school, which was to be the first in Kakuma 4 Camp where many refugees from South Sudan live. This school, made up of 16 classrooms, including a science laboratory and other departments, school desks and chairs were crafted by refugees trained at a vocational training school run by another NGO. Textbooks for all subjects were made available for use by all students.

Students eagerly listen to talks by the principal.

The school also has a kitchen for preparing school lunches, an important facility for growing children (the following photograph).

School lunch is being prepared. Today’s menu is bean soup.

School lunch that children have been looking forward to. Some students receive second and third servings.

Named “Vision Secondary School,” the school ownership was transferred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on February 19. At present, 1,112 students study at the school.

I want to be a lawyer, a doctor

The chaotic situation in the home country has robbed students, some of whom are over the age of 20, of educational opportunities. Now that their educational environment is in place, each student has dreams about his or her future. A first year student Paul (age 19, photograph on the right) wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. While studying on his own, Paul said, “Our country is in a difficult situation right now, but I think things will improve and we will have peace.”

Paul studying alone in the science laboratory.

The school enrollment rate among girls is especially low, and they account for a mere 20% of all students. This is because many girls get pregnant or marry at a young age, or are expected to perform household chores. Nyemai (age 18, far right, photograph on the left), one of the few female students, told us about her dream: “In the future, I want to return to South Sudan, to become a doctor and to work for my country.”

Increasing the number of female students is another challenge.
AAR Japan’s Yuki KANEYAMA on the far left.

Art of survival

Furthermore, AAR Japan undertakes classroom extension works at the existing secondary school in Kakuma 1 Camp. However, our Assistance does not end with the construction of buildings. We organized a school maintenance team made up of students, guardians and teachers so that the local people will be able to maintain and repair the school building on their own.  Also, we provide training to the teaching staff so that they are able to teach children ways of overcoming trauma that comes with living in a period of turmoil as well as teaching children  ways to deal with troubles that arise from racial differences in religion and culture or discord among different tribes. We will continue to offer assistance from psychological and mental aspects in addition to physical aid so that the school may serve as a place for children to learn the art of survival in various forms.
As of now, some 20,000 refugee children at the Kakuma Refugee Camp are denied the opportunity to receive a secondary education. While this is a small step forward, AAR Japan will continue its assistance so that children who grew up in refugee camps are able to widen their career opportunities and eventually work for the future of their home country.
Students of Vision Secondary School


KANEYAMA assumed the current post since November of 2014. After graduating from university, she went to work in Senegal as a volunteer for Japan International Cooperation Agency after a brief stint at a private enterprise. She joined AAR Japan upon her return to Japan. KANEYAMA, who is from Nagano, says, “I hope children will learn ways to relate with people and recognize what they are good at. My aspiration is to broaden their future opportunities.”
(Profile at the time of posting of this article)

Japanese-English translation by Ms. Rie Watanabe
English editing by Ms. Alexandra Lopatinsky

The article on this page has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.