Friday, July 05, 2019

Michelle Bellino discusses successes and challenges for Kenyan refugees seeking higher education


In a piece for The Conversation, Dr. Michelle Bellino explained the need for refugees across Kenya to have more access to higher education. Education, she said, ought to remain a central focus for Humanitarian aid.

Her article, titled “How a pilot project in Kenya helps refugees go to university,” states that refugees experience most of their education outside of their countries of origin. For this reason, and the fact that they are often legally restricted in their movement, refugee camps are the only places that offer them an opportunity to receive an education.

Higher education, specifically, is often funded by scholarships that are both beneficial and limiting. “Though these programs can be hugely beneficial to individuals and their communities, opportunities are limited, competitive, and costly. They also tend to exclude older learners, heads of households (on whom others rely), and those who have finished schooling in a different country,” Bellino said.

Bellino studied a university hub in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, where a pilot test is taking place, in which 60% of students’ college tuition is subsidized. “This is a unique approach because refugees choose their program of study, and contribute to tuition costs as they work and study,” she stated. Of the graduates in the first cohort, one graduate is a university lecturer now, and several others plan to enroll in a master’s program.

Monetary challenges remain. Refugees are legally unable to work, so this can lead to late tuition payments and fees, but the program appears to be promising. More experimentation is needed, said Bellino, to reach an ideal balance for refugee contributions.
“Bringing universities to refugee populations can improve access, but they need more financial support,” she explained, and a growing network of partners may help decrease student costs as well.

Michelle J. Bellino is Assistant Professor

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