Kenya: Education as a Safe Haven

26 December 2019

Two friends is posing for a portrait in a JRS Safe Haven in Kakuma refugee settlement. (Fredrik Lerneryd)(Fredrik Lerneryd)

Kakuma – Access to formal education can improve the well-being of refugees in camps, and significantly develops their skills and knowledge. The young girls in the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Safe Haven shelter are enthusiastic about their education despite the harsh conditions in the camp. Private JRS donors have made it so that refugees, and especially girls, can continue going to school even after UNHCR had to cut their education budget in Kakuma. 

Many have been able to enroll in respected schools inside and outside of the camp due to JRS’s advocacy for girl’s education. Through partnerships with agencies that offer educational scholarships and courses focused on self-esteem and livelihood development, girls have been able to claim their right to an education.

Pauline*, a young mother from South Sudan, was forced to run away from home after her step father tried to force her to marry. After leaving her country and facing threats from various members of her community, she was admitted into the Safe Haven shelter in Kenya. Pauline has attended many activities and trainings offered at the shelter, and now has hope for her future.

The Safe Haven courses have been a great benefit to me, both in vocational skills and as a new mom.

Realizing the importance of education for refugees, the Safe Haven program gives opportunities to girls who face unjust challenges. In the last year, the program has already provided access to formal education for 41 students. The educational opportunities give renewed hope for the future and a safe space to learn. JRS also supplies materials for school and therapy, such as textbooks, pens, shoes, toiletries, and uniforms to ensure they have all the material support they need to continue their education.

Other activities are organized at the Safe Haven shelter to further support girls’ education. The shelter hosts empowerment sessions for the girls to boost their confidence and gain peer support. Safe Haven not only teaches girls the importance of education in their lives, but also connects them with women from their community who have excelled academically. They give powerful testimonies to inspire the girls and offer their support as a resource. There is a strong link between protection and education, as education in itself is a tool for protection. With education girls can recognize and combat infringement of their rights and contribute to the development of their communities.

 Young girls sit in a class on sexual and gender-based violence and self-esteem. (Jesuit Refugee Service)


See more photos from the Safe Haven here.

Read our policy brief, Her Future: Challenges & Recommendations to Increase Education for Refugee Girls that calls for policymakers, donors, and other decision makers to prioritize education for refugee and displaced girls and provides recommendations to improve access.


*All names were changed for the privacy and safety of those involved. This original story was posted on the JRS International Office website.  For more information visit their page.