Category Archives: BHER (Borderless Higher Education for Refugees)

Solar Lamps for University Students in Dadaab

Support the INDIEGOGO Campaign to buy solar powered lamps for refugee and local university students in Dadaab, Kenya , These lamps will enable them to complete schoolwork at home.

The Solar Lamps for University Students in Dadaab campaign aims to provide solar-powered desk lamps to refugee and local students in Dadaab, Kenya who attend  tuition-free post-secondary education programs offered for the first time ever in Northeastern Kenya through the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project.

**Contributors who wish to receive a receipt for their tax-deductible donation should include their full name and mailing address when making their contribution.



 The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project provides educational programs in one of the largest refugee camps of the world, Dadaab, Kenya. The BHER project also creates space for local Kenyan students in Dadaab to benefit from these programs. Completion of these programs keeps women and men from precarious forms of employment and wins them internationally recognized credentials and marketable skills that they can use to work in situ, to be employed in Kenya, in their country of origin, or wherever they resettle.



 A significant barrier identified by BHER students to completing their coursework is the inability to find adequate lighting during the evening. For many students, the ability to access study space with electricity and adequate lighting is often limited outside of class time. The restrictions for women students are often greater because of responsibilities that require them to be home in the evenings and also because of safety concerns faced by women when going out after dark.   

 A simple solution with a broad impact, solar-powered lamps give students the freedom to complete coursework at home and enable them to succeed in their university programs. However, the cost of lamps puts this much-needed resource out of reach for students, who already face livelihood challenges under the constraining conditions in the refugee camp and locally. While students in the refugee camps have access to meager “incentive” wages (approximately 102 CND/month for highly paid refugees), these earnings are barely enough to support themselves and their families. Students from local communities may be paid at a slightly better rate (around 200 CND/month), though this amount is still highly restrictive. For both refugee and local students, purchasing a solar lamp would mean taking away from the limited household incomes that barely meet people’s basic standards of living.

Working with d.light, an international social enterprise that specializes in solar light and power products, the BHER project will use funds raised through this campaign to secure at-cost solar-powered lamps for students in the BHER program.

Help bring light to Dadaab’s refugee and local university students’ lives, studies, and futures by contributing today.




Over the next 4 years, The BHER project will serve approximately 800 refugee students. For a contribution of about $42 CAD, you will provide one student with a solar-powered lamp that will help them through the duration of their studies. This means that for every $1,000 CAD raised, 23 students will be provided with a resource that will give them the freedom to do coursework at home during the evening. For many refugee and local students – particularly women – your contribution can make the difference that enables them to complete their education.

Refugees ordered to relocate to Kakuma, Dadaab camps as urban registration centres shut in Kenya

By CYRUS OMBATI Nairobi, Kenya: March 25th 2014: From Standard Media

The government has ordered all refugees residing outside Kakuma and Dadaab to return the refugee camps immediately. All refugee registration centres in urban in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Isiolo and Nakuru have also been closed. Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku said any refugee found flouting his directive will be arrested and prosecuted. All Kenyans are requested to report to police any refugee or illegal immigrant found outside the designated camps,€ said Lenku in a statement. He said the move is part of the measures they are taking to address the increasing threat of terrorism in the country.

The minister said an additional 500 police officers have been deployed in Nairobi and Mombasa to enhance security and surveillance. He said other security agencies will support the operations.

Lenku added that 109 suspects have so far been arrested following the attack on a church in Likoni, Mombasa and are being interrogated. The move by the minister came amid reports some of the refugees could be behind the terror attacks being witnessed in the country. On Sunday, three gunmen who were armed with an AK 47 rifle dropped a box that had 36 rounds of ammunition as they escaped after killing six people at the church and injured 18 others. On Monday, four empty ammunition boxes were found at the Nakumatt Junction Mall basement.

The boxes were found abandoned on a trolley at the basement and seemed to have stayed there for long. Police have not established the whereabouts of the bullets that were emptied from the boxes or their origin.

What do you think about the connection being made between urban refugees in Nairobi and “terrorism acts” in the city? Do let us know your thoughts!

Mix of fear and hope for Somali refugees in Kenya looking to return home

By Bosire Boniface in Garissa

March 11, 2014. From SabahiOnline

While some Somalis residing in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex are taking stock of the living conditions back home before their eventual journey back, others are not ready to return and fear what might happen if the camps are closed prematurely.Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

To better understand refugees’ mixed sentiment on the repatriation process, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), launched on February 25th a comprehensive survey of Somali refugees living in Dadaab camps.

The Return Intention Survey will be conducted over four months, and the results of the survey will be taken into consideration in the planning process for the voluntary repatriation of refugee families, according to IOM.

“In the next two months, 50 enumerators trained by IOM will be in the field to interview a sample of 7,453 households, representing 27 groups of refugees from nine different regions in Somalia, who arrived in three phases to Dadaab,” IOM said in a statement.

The survey will attempt to gather information a host of data points on the refugees, including how they used to earn a living, what property claims they may have, what forced the families to move from Somalia, current living conditions, skills and occupation, why they may choose to return, and their expectations with regard to access to services, security, employment and housing in Somalia, IOM said.

IOM and UNHCR agreed to carry out the survey to ensure the refugees’ views and concerns are heard and taken into consideration, under the framework of a tripartite agreement signed last November between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR.

Hesitation and hope

To inform the public about the correct objectives of the survey, the organisations launched a communications campaign that included a press conference in Dadaab, public service announcements on radio and extensive meetings with refugee leaders.

But despite those efforts, the survey has been greeted with little or no enthusiasm, according to Halima Hussein Abdille, 35, a refugee in Dadaab’s Kambioos camp.

“I am certain that most of the refugees are reluctant to return in Somalia,” she told Sabahi. “But I doubt our voice will sway the Kenyan government which appears decided that we refugees should leave Kenya.”

Abdille, who arrived in the camps in 2007 from Bardhere in Gedo region, said she is not ready to return back home “any time soon” and is braced for forceful evictions from the camps.

“Al-Shabaab killed my cousin in January 2014 accusing him of not being cooperative with their demands. They have killed elderly and clerics there [recently]. How can one return to such a place?” she said.

“There have been sustained calls from Kenyan government officials to close the camps,” she said. “In case we are asked to leave the camps, our options will be limited regardless of international laws protecting the refugees.”

Still, Abdille said she knows of at least ten refugee families who left the camp for Somalia during the month of February.

“They left under their own means. Some left with donkey carts carrying their belongings while others left on hired vehicles,” she said.

Adan Hussein Ibrahim, 35, a refugee in Ifo II camp, was more optimistic about his future in Somalia and said he plans to return before the end of March.

“I came to Kenya on November 3, 2010, with my wife and three children,” he told Sabahi. “Since then, I have not been registered. We have been surviving on the goodwill of relatives in the camp who share with us their meagre food rations.”

Ibrahim said dozens of families who arrived in Kenya at the end of 2010 had already left.

He said a group of his relatives have been checking to see if his hometown of Bulo Marer in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region is suitable for resettlement.

“In the long run, my family and I will find our way to Hargeisa. I hope to settle and start business there,” he said, adding that he was inspired to return to his home country by those still in Somalia living and working under volatile situations.

Despite reports of al-Shabaab kidnappings, harassment, extortion, stealing livestock and imposing fines, many of the refugees are keen to return or have returned already, he said.

Beginning the journey home

Dadaab District Officer Bernard ole Kipury said security forces on patrol along the Kenya-Somalia border encounter far more groups of Somalis leaving Kenya than entering.

“On questioning those leaving, they tell the security officers that they are going back home to rebuild their lives,” he told Sabahi. “They are always in groups of not less than ten people including children and mothers.”

During security searches, the refugees are mostly found in possession of personal belongings, bedding and a little food and water for the journey back home, he said.

“Those coming [into Kenya] tell security officers they were in the camps [previously],” Kipury said. “Others say they are visiting their relatives.”

He said security in the camps has improved over the past two months, however, security forces remain on alert “because the lack of activities by al-Shabaab group has previously proved to be a tactic to distract alertness before an attack”.

Kipury said it was difficult to know exactly the number of refugees who have left the camps so far.

But on February 19th, during a press conference with Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said that between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees had already travelled to Somalia voluntarily, adding that it may take two years to repatriate Somalis from Dadaab.

Raouf Mazou, UNHCR representative in Kenya, said the return of the refugees would be carried out on a voluntary basis only, as per the tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR, and that the process would take at least 10 years to conclude.

Kenyan Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Joseph ole Lenku, however, maintains that it is possible to close the camp under a year.

“What is required in every situation is a will and commitment,” he told Sabahi. “There are organisations and individuals who want to instil the notion that Somalia is not safe for returning refugees. They are instilling fear instead of hope.”

“It will defeat logic if the refugees do not return to areas liberated by Somalia and African Union as soon as today,” he said.

As repatriation becomes more real for Somali refugees in Dadaab, what do you think is the role of the Return Intention Survey? Why do you think there is a lack of enthusiasm for taking part in this survey? Do let us know your thoughts!

Learning and Refugees: Recognizing the Darker Side of Transformative Learning

Linda Morrice

Adult Education Quarterly 2013 63: 251

Learning is generally viewed as a positive process bringing benefits to the individual, leading to growth and self-development. But is this always the case? This article draws on empirical research with refugees and considers the processes of transforming experience and learning that accompanies transition to life in the United Kingdom. I will argue for the importance of social context and nonformal learning, and suggest that models and theories based on transformative learning that ignore context provide only a partial and distorted picture of the learning and identity processes at work for this particular group of immigrants. There is a complexity and depth to the learning that they experience, which calls for an enlarged concept of learning and its potential outcomes.

refugees, transformative learning, immigration, identity, immigrant, Mezirow, learning




Kenya’s Dadaab finds innovative ways to educate knowledge-hungry refugees / BHER

New university campus near Dadaab complex aims to improve life for Somali refugees and prepare them for returning home

in Dadaab

MDG migration Dadaab

A Somali refugee girl writes on a board at a makeshift outdoor classroom at Dagahaley camp in Dadaab. Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

A humble, green-roofed building on the outskirts of the world’s largest refugee settlement in north-eastern Kenya could be the unlikely portal that opens Ahmed Noor Hassan’s life, and the lives of thousands of other Somali refugees, to the world.

This is the proposed site for the Dadaab campus of Kenyatta University, the first higher-level institution to serve a refugee site. Classes, due to start in a few weeks, will include diploma, undergraduate and master’s courses in public policy, peace and conflict studies, commerce and education. They will be open to refugees, students from the local community and staff from humanitarian agencies.

“It will open the life of refugees to the external world,” says Noor Hassan, 25, a youth leader who is hanging out with friends in a small compound in Dagahaley, one of the five camps that make up the Dadaab refugee complex. “Our problems will be understood by the world.”

MDG Dadaab University

Ahmed Noor Hassan, 25, a youth leader at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee complex, January 2013.

(Photograph: Clar Ni Chonghaile for the Guardian).

There is much to understand. In Dadaab, 448,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, live in five giant camps in a sweltering, scrub-covered expanse of sand. Some camps have winding streets and trees, while the newest feature rows of tents housing people who fled Somalia’s famine in 2011. The idea of opening a university campus here is audacious – this corner of Kenya, just 90km (55 miles) from the border with Somalia, has been hit hard by years of war against the Islamic insurgents of al-Shabaab.

Improvised explosive devices have targeted police patrols in the camps, aid workers have been kidnapped, and several elders and community leaders have been shot. Foreign visitors must take a police escort to visit the site, and aid workers’ movements are restricted. Kenyan security forces have also been accused of abuses in the camps, after bomb attacks against them.

Noor Hassan wants to improve his skills so that when he goes home he can compete with Somali returnees from the US and Europe. He has applied to study public policy and administration at the new campus and although the fee of 100,000 shillings (£730) a year is high, he hopes he can raise it through savings and from friends living abroad.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is seeking partners to provide scholarships to the new campus.

“If I finish, I will move to Somalia and take the risk, because no pain, no gain. If I stay here, I will be wasting my energy and my youth,” Noor Hassan says. “Let me have four more years of difficulty, then I can go there.”

Marangu Njogu, executive director of the Windle Trust, helped mobilise support for the Dadaab campus. Known as “the father of education” in Dadaab, he is a key player in the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (Bher) project, a partnership between Canadian and Kenyan institutions aimed at improving education opportunities for refugees and marginalised local communities.

The Kenyatta University campus will “act as a launchpad [for Bher] to provide education for the refugees”, he says, arguing that education is as essential as emergency services. “When people look at refugees coming, and say, ‘We can’t do education because it’s an emergency’, it’s a disservice to the people … Education is the most critical element in helping human beings to develop and be self-reliant,” he says.

“We should provide education immediately, give people skills to be able to be in charge of their lives, and give them opportunities to interact with other people instead of just bundling them together,” Njogu says, adding that education also prevents young people from engaging in “antisocial activities”.

Programme development manager Tom Oindo says Windle Trust aims to improve life in the camps but also to prepare people for returning home. The organisation places a special emphasis on enabling girls to further their education. “We try to give a transformative education to ensure that we are actually equipping our scholars with skills to be able to contribute to the development of their home countries but, at the same time, have requisite skills to survive within the current situation.”

This idea underlies the Bher programme, which will provide a wide range of courses to refugees through a mix of online and on site resources, says Professor Wenona Giles of York University in Toronto, one of Bher’s lead partners.

Bher will not charge tuition fees, but will need contributions to cover direct costs. The consortium – including York University, Kenyatta University, the University of British Columbia and Kenya’s Moi University – wants to set up a fund to help refugees with transport, food and other expenses.

“This is a pilot project from which we can learn in order to do this in other sites,” says Giles. “Education is a right. And higher education should be a right. We’re looking at [using] phones, radios, MP3 players. We are going to use everything we can.” The Bher project will also have a learning centre on the Dadaab campus.

Technology is key to another education initiative in Dadaab: a joint project between UNHCR’s education and innovation units that has received funding and support from Microsoft and Kenyan telecoms firm Safaricom.

Erin Hayba, an associate community services officer and an innovation iFellow for UNHCR, says the aim is to give a laptop to each school to manage education information, including school attendance and learning, install computer labs in every secondary school, and provide computers for vocational training centres.

The project involves training teachers on how to use computers in the classrooms, and organising electricity and internet connections. Some funding is provided by a UNHCR campaign to provide solar power in schools.

For the project to succeed, Hayba says, teachers, parents and community leaders must be involved. She has been surprised by the enthusiasm she has encountered. “[The refugee communities] are even contributing in small financial ways … Some of the computers are in [school] science labs. The refugees bought fabric and made curtains and covers to keep off the dust … It’s that ownership.”

These projects all have the common aim of increasing self-reliance among Dadaab residents, many of whom do not fit the classic profile of refugees but who still find themselves living extremely restricted lives.

“If you give someone food it is only keeping them alive for a few days,” says Noor Hassan. “For the future, we need to be empowered. I would like the youth of Dadaab to be able to compete with the other diaspora refugees back in Somalia.”

Available at: The Guardian