Campus opens next to world’s biggest refugee camp

Kenyatta University, one of Kenya’s leading universities, has opened a campus in Dadaab, a town in the semi-arid northeast of the country that is home to the world’s largest refugee camp.

The Kenyatta facility is the latest in a string of campuses sprouting up all over the country, and aims to benefit both refugees and Kenyans living in North Eastern Province. It was built on an empty site in the tiny Kenyan town near the border with Somalia.

According to officials from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, who attended the inauguration ceremony on 9 October, courses will be open to Kenyan citizens and refugees living in the nearby refugee complex from January 2013.

Dadaab is often described as the world’s biggest refugee camp, sheltering nearly half a million Somalis who have fled famine and conflict in their country. It was set up in 1991 and is only around 100 kilometres from Kenya’s border with Somalia.

The new campus will offer diploma, undergraduate and masters courses in subjects such as finance, marketing, project management, education, public administration, community mobilisation, and peace and conflict studies.

One of Kenyatta University’s visions is to be a centre of excellence in refugee education, and it said it aimed to empower refuges through tertiary education, capacity building and research in order to prepare them for post-conflict arbitration and reintegration.

“This is a big leap forward, it is a win-win situation – a win for Kenya and a win for the refugees,” said Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR head of operations in northeast Kenya, at the official opening of the campus.

He said the new facility would serve as an incentive for refugee children to complete school and obtain higher qualifications, ultimately making a contribution to society by offering their skills.

UNHCR officials pointed out that the courses offered by the university would directly benefit the education sector in the refugee campus through diploma courses in areas such as school management and early childhood education, and would also train much-needed teachers.