Schools in Refugee Camps Not Useless

25/10/2013 10:38 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

In 2007 when Kenya went through a face I will chose to call mad man gone extra-mad after disputed elections, the world was shocked. I was an undergraduate student at that time and I remember sitting inside my room constantly calling and warning my younger brother Robins not to dare contemplate going to central Nairobi, just in case the madness caught up with him. When a country is burning, no one is ever safe.

We had just re-opened university after 2 weeks delay to give time for things to cool down and ensure those students whom had travelled to visit with their families for Christmas were back safely. Since university calendar had to go on, we continued with our classes oblivious of students who had not resumed due to the escalating violence in some parts of the country. Fortunately, those students who were delayed made it to the campus though they had to work extra hard to catch up with the rest. That period was not just tough for students but for Kenya as a country.

Whenever there is instability in a country, children are usually the most vulnerable; their lives are distracted, families taken away from them and they lose all they have, their education. Effects of distracted education are unimaginable. It makes a country a generation behind. South Sudan is yet to figure out what to do with powerful but uneducated government officials. I shiver when I think of children in Syria and the challenges they will pose to the world in the coming years. Remember the phrase,

'the world is a global village?'

Schools in refugee camps should not just be a makeshift plan to keep sad children busy, but should be allowed to operate with clear objectives. Donors need to commit to education in refugee camps. These places are no longer temporary settlements but absurdly as it may sound, they become homes.

Committing to education in refugee camps means:

  • Children are given opportunity to learn how to read and write:
If you can read this, there is no doubt we are part of the lucky ones. No matter your circumstances, to be able to read and write is a gift that sometimes most people take for granted. People say 'money and oil' makes the world revolves, actually, education does....

  • Children can get Psychosocial support:
School provides opportunity for children to begin needed healing process; they don't have to wait to get back home (this might never happen). Also in school, they learn about responsible citizenship, good governance and protection. We don't learn good governance in the moon, it all starts in school.

  • Children are protected from deviant behaviours:
School provides discipline and protection. In vulnerable places like refugee camps where people feel let down and betrayed, extremist groups can easily spread their propaganda and recruit selfless young minds. Good education can stop this from happening.

Quality education in refugee camps will not come like 'manna from heaven.' It needs actors: school managers, teachers and teaching methods. The environment also has to be conducive for learning. All these will happen only if adequate resources are committed. The world might have failed to end war in Syria and other places, but surely, we have enough money to have schools in the camps.