Connected Learning Pedagogies & Academic SupportStrengthening Access to Justice in Refugee CampsKakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya)
Université de Genève - InZoneAuthor: Djemila Carron
Courses and research projects in human rights and children’s rights are part of the higher education programming implemented by the University of Geneva-InZone in Kakuma Refugee Camp. Most courses are based on Open Educational Resources produced by the University of Geneva or its partner institutions of higher learning, and integrated into a comprehensive learning eco-system in which local students and student facilitators, graduate students at the University of Geneva as on-line subject-matter tutors and lecturers interact and support collaborative blended learning.
InZone’s advanced human rights students in Kakuma refugee camp were studying the first edition of the course “Applied Human Rights” – a practical human rights course following the methodology of a legal clinic. The aim of this program is to implement an academic human rights project each year in Kakuma. For the first edition, the “Applied Human Rights” students built a project around education and the basics of children’s rights according to customary law, Kenyan law and international law for zone leaders and community elders in the camp. InZone students in Kakuma have been benefiting from the support of legal clinic students from the University of Geneva and Kenyatta University. The three teams of students collaborated from to create a one-week, trilingual training course on children’s rights in Kakuma refugee camp. Field research was conducted looking at some of the most pressing issues regarding children in the camp: the hearing process, sexual violence and early marriage, as well as access to education for all.
In 2019 35 community elders and zone leaders from 10 different nationalities participated in this training. It allowed the sharing of knowledge and facilitated the discussion of concrete steps needed to take in order to improve the implementation of children’s rights in Kakuma. A bilingual booklet (English, Swahili) was designed as a toolkit for the participants in the training and subsequently published and distributed as legal resource in the camp. It contains an explanation of the ‘best interests of the child’ principle, as well as legal bases and relevant information regarding each theme of the training in Kiswahili and English. It also provides a significant platform for the main recommendations made by the community elders and zone leaders who participated in the program.
Both the creation and the implementation of the course for Elders and Zone leaders as an academic project designed for being operationalized in the camp, generated questions around academic freedom and the capacity and expertise of students, both refugees and Kenyan nationals, to take a community-identified problem in the camp, subject it to proven legal aid clinic practice, generate results collaboratively and return the synthesis to the community to improve legal practice. Critical reflection in camp contexts remains a challenge, that rigorous academic approaches can help overcome to produce quality learning that is contextualized in terms of topics and themes, and highly relevant to the community. Regular implementation of similar projects should help overcome resistance within the humanitarian system to rigorous scientific problem-solving in humanitarian contexts.
While project-based learning is widely recognized as a valuable pedagogical approach that promotes holistic learning, few if any student projects in fragile contexts go beyond the stage of grading by teachers. Taking a “whole-of-camp” approach and ensuring that all stakeholders and actors are engaged in the learning process takes the problem-based learning approach to the real world where serious problems await quality solutions by those who best know the context: the community as a whole and its higher education students. Outcomes invariably are much more contextualized, culturally and linguistically accessible and adoptable by the community.