Teacher management in refugee settings: Kenya

A collaboration between Education Development Trust and IIEP-UNESCO

Globally, there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced persons. Among these are 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are children. Effective teacher management is key to ensuring inclusive, equitable, quality education for these young people, and teachers constitute the most important factor affecting student learning. In crisis and displacement situations, the role of teachers is particularly significant: they are sometimes the only resource available to students. This report investigates teacher management in refugee contexts in Kenya, and is the third in a series of country reports. It contributes to a burgeoning body of evidence about teachers in refugee contexts and aims to provide policy guidance to support ministries of education.

A programme of research 

In 2018, Education Development Trust and IIEP-UNESCO jointly published a review of the literature relating to teacher management in refugee contexts. The review concludes that for displaced populations, realising their legal rights, where afforded, can be challenging when international frameworks have not been ratified or adapted into national legal frameworks. It can be equally difficult when legal frameworks are poorly integrated into social service policies, plans and strategies (for example, within national education sector plans). 

The review also concludes that much of the literature indicates that teachers from the refugee community are best placed to teach refugee children, or should – at the very least – play a part in their education provision. Many host countries are aware of this, and are utilising refugees to support national teachers, as is the case to some extent in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Nevertheless, in most contexts, more and more national teachers are teaching refugees in host countries, with very limited support and preparation. Fragmented information on refugee teachers, coupled with a lack of information on the host teachers charged with refugee students’ education, points to a need for more research.  

Following the review’s conclusions, Education Development Trust and IIEP-UNESCO embarked on a series of country studies. At the time of writing, there are three completed and one underway. These include this report on Kenya, the report on Ethiopia published in 2020, report in Jordan published in 2021, plus one further country studies taking place in Uganda.

Kenya country study 

Kenya has hosted refugees since its independence in 1963 and is currently home to one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. According to UNHCR data[1], as of August 2022 Kenya hosted 561,836 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Somalia (53%), South Sudan (25%), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (10%), and Ethiopia (5.6%). Over three quarters of refugees reside in the refugee camps and settlements of Dadaab, Kakuma and Kalobeyei, with most of the remaining refugees living around Nairobi.

Primary schools within Kakuma, Kalobeyei and Dadaab are run by either Lutheran World Federation or Finn Church Aid, although they do adhere to the Kenyan curriculum. Whilst refugees are entitled to attend public schools and national Kenyans are equally entitled to attend camp schools, the majority of refugees at the primary level attend schools within the camps. 90% of teachers are refugee teachers (many of whom are without teaching qualifications), with qualified Kenyan teachers making up the remaining 10%.

The report contributes to a burgeoning body of research focused on teachers in refugee contexts. It aims to provide policy guidance to support ministries of education. The study identifies promising policies and implementation strategies that exist for the management of primary-level teachers in refugee hosting regions and reveals potential areas for further development of policies and successful implementation.


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