Are Refugee Children Learning? Early Grade Literacy in a Refugee Camp in Kenya
Currently, more than 25 million people across the globe live as refugees, having been driven from their countries of origin by crises and conflicts. Although the right to education is articulated in global agreements, national education systems in the host countries are primarily responsible for refugee children’s instruction. In one of the first studies of its kind, we assessed all the schools providing lower primary education to refugee children in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, one of the largest and oldest refugee camps in the world at the time of data collection. The outcomes for these students were concerningly low, even lower than for those of disadvantaged children in the host community, Turkana County. Literacy outcomes differed among the refugee children, depending on their country of origin, the language of instruction used at the school in Kenya, the languages spoken at home, and the children’s self-professed expectation of a return to their country of origin. Findings point to the urgent need to invest heavily in improving learning among refugee children, rather than focusing solely on their access to education.