Parents and teachers are alarmed by the growing numbers of Somali refugee children quitting school in Dadaab because they have lost hope for the future due to the slated closure of the camps.
Hussein Hassan Mohamed decided not to go back to school again after his parents informed him that they would be going home to Somalia in November.
“My future seems very bleak; this is the end of my education! I’ve spent 11 years in school,” he told Radio Ergo. He was a form three student at Waberi secondary school in Dadaab’s Hagadera camp.
Nafiso Osman, 18, was in form one in Dagahley secondary school when she heard that the Kenyan government planned to close the refugee camps starting towards the end of this year. She felt utterly dejected.
“After eight years of school I’ve realized that I won’t be able to get my certificate or sit for the national examinations in November. I know the importance of education, but I’ve dropped out of school because all the refugees will be repatriated. I will not be in school if we return home,” she said.
Students in Dadaab staged a demonstration on 29 June against Kenya’s decision to close the camps.
After the protest, a meeting was held by the Windle Trust, an NGO providing educational support for refugees, and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to explain the modalities of the repatriation process and convince students that they would not be forced back to Somalia.
Since then, however, about 2,000 students have dropped out of the seven high schools in the camps, according to Shefe’e Abdullahi Abdi, an official of Windle Trust. Some 760 of those who have left school are girls.
“The announcement regarding the closure of the camps has affected education in the camps and the students are very disappointed,” Shafe’e said.
Tawakal secondary school alone has lost 200 students.
Mohamed Hussein, the principal, reported that class sizes had shrunk from 60 to 40 students. “The most affected ones are those in their third year of high school. They are worried and they believe that they will not be able to finish their education despite spending so many years in school,” he said.
Yusuf Mohamed Mohamud, a refugee living in Ifo camp, told Radio Ergo that his son had dropped out of his third year of high school. He described it as a big step backwards.
“One of the main reasons why we are in the camp is to access the free education programmes for our children. My son is so disappointed and I have failed to convince him to go back to school over the past month,” Yusuf said.