Refugee girl achieves highest score in Dadaab camps

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Dadaab, Kenya –  Maryan Mohamed, a 14 year old refugee girl from Somalia, was the leading student in  Dadaab refugee camps, northern Kenya, scoring 396 out of 500 marks. She is among 228,414 pupils countrywide who scored 300 marks and above. More than 3,000 refugee students in Dadaab sat the exams, known as the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) which ended on 1st November 2018. Maryan sat the exams at Upendo Primary School, one of the few primary schools in the refugee camp.

Maryan is one of 7 children who arrived in Hagadera, part of Dadaab refugee camps when she was just 6 years old, after her parents fled conflict in their homeland, Somalia. Despite being refugees in Kenya, and a girl, Maryan’s parents always pushed her to study hard – and explained to her the value of a good education.

“Being female and last born in my family doesn’t come with less expectations. I worked hard to make my parents, teachers and my community proud. Mathematics is my favourite subject. I enjoy solving equations and learning new things. I would like to be a doctor and help my people,” said Maryan .

 Maryan’s mother, Fatuma Ibrahim, was delighted at the news of her daughter’s high score.

“As a parent, I encouraged her to study hard but thankfully, she is self-motivated. Often, she would wake up early in the morning to study privately for  maths and Kiswahili before going to school. At night, using a portable solar lamp given by UNHCR, she worked on her assignments. After school, she would want to help with the household chores but, I made sure her older sisters mostly took care of that.”

The Head Teacher at Maryan’s school, Hussein Maalim expressed his happiness about the achievement of his student and commended her talent and passion for learning.

“Maryan has always been one of the top students at Upendo. She’s a fast and bright learner, beating all the boys and girls in her class. After school she would always participate in group studies for candidates, preparing for final exams and different social school clubs. Girls’ education is still a challenge in Dadaab. Some girls are either kept at home for household chores such as cooking, cleaning, fetching water and some, even married off. So Maryan’s achievement is truly great.”

But Maryan’s achievement comes against the background of a need to improve access to education in Dadaab.

There are over 3,600 students at Upendo, and not enough resources and facilities to meet demand.  Most refugees rely on UNHCR and its partners to access education. Due to reduced funding, the number of teachers dropped from 1,257 teachers in 2017 to 920 teachers in 2018. There are only 173 qualified primary teachers (32 national teachers and 141 qualified refugee teachers) which represents 19% of the total number of teachers.

“Children in many of the Dadaab schools learn in relatively poor environments with limited movement within the classes. This has led to overcrowding which in turn compromises the principle of safe learning environment, leading to drop-outs among student,” says Suleiman Hassan, UNHCR’s Education Associate.

He adds that in order to improve access and ensure quality learning, there is still a huge demand for additional classrooms, toilets and more qualified teachers to accommodate all learners.

“There is a shortage of female teachers and  only 15% (183 ) of teachers are female. As such, girls lack enough role models,” observes Hassan.

The Dadaab refugee complex has a population of 208,500 refugees and asylum seekers, and consists of three camps, Hagadera, Ifo, and Dagahaley. Over 104,300 of the total camp population are of school-going children aged, 3-17 years, constituting half of the population. Only 63,892 of the total of school going age children are enrolled in school among them 45,245 are enrolled in primary schools in Dadaab camps.