University of British Columbia & Moi University

By Lorrie Miller,
University of British Columbia

I’ve been working with a group of students from Kenya over the last 3 years since 2014. They were elementary and secondary teachers working towards completing their diplomas to teach in secondary education to Kenyan and Somali standards. They’ve developed their abilities. It’s part of a very large project, part of the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees, and part of that was a joint partnership between Moi University and UBC.

We worked primarily at the secondary level. Now, over the last couple of years, we have seen about 87 students graduate with credentials and some of them have gone on to work on their degrees in other areas including public health education. Last July, I had the opportunity to see many of these students, at their pre-graduation ceremony in Dadaab. So, it was wonderful to meet them face to face, I’ve been connecting with them many times over the last 3 years through email and WhatsApp as they worked through their practicum and their other course work. And last year, I was able to meet, face to face, a number of amazing, dedicated teachers.

Jama Mohamed (top/center), stands amongst the students at the school he helped to open in Somalia. Photo: Rescue Charitable Organization (RCO)

One of them is Jama Mohamed, he is a chemistry and biology teacher, and he is currently finishing his degree
and what he did following his diploma with us and with Moi was to open a school in Somalia. He was originally
from that country, from a small town near to the northern border of Kenya, but he spent all of his life in the
refugee camp, and he is a dad, he’s a student. He went back for a visit and saw the conditions there and said
that these kids needed a school. So, he worked together with the other community leaders and he started
a school. This was last fall and now there are over 640 students, they rallied the people in the community, they cleaned up the land around some old army buildings that were in use in the 1990s, and transformed these buildings into their school.

And now they have about 300 girls, 340 boys, aged between 7 and 15, and about half of those children are orphans. So, although there is a cost associated with going to school, the community and the school board that they’ve set up have decided that all the children will have access to school, regardless of their ability to pay. It’s an amazing project with vision and fortitude – when you bring a number of institutions together, and support people that go out and make a real difference to the lives of the children in the community, it’s full of hope and, over the coming months, I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. My role has been that of a kind of external advisor for things like how to set your website up, and so I’m hoping to find out what other students are doing to make a difference on the ground in the places that they originate from.