Kenya is home to the largest refugee complex in the world, hosting some 600,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia and Sudan. Less than 1 in 10 live in urban areas such as Nairobi. The majority live in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. There are few qualified teachers in the Dadaab camps, and refugee teachers are paid about $70 a month. While many refugees work for aid agencies in various capacities they tend to receive meager “incentive payments” rather than proper salaries, purportedly because of Kenya’s restrictive labor laws.

A pilot program has been developed to offer 400 students in the Dadaab camps a chance to earn accredited diplomas in teaching and an opportunity to earn a university degree. Kenyan law does not allow refugees to have formal jobs within the camps but participants in the newly introduced program can hold what are known as “incentive” positions in the camps’ education and community health services. One of the project’s partners at the University of British Columbia explains:

It was felt that training the teachers was the most important thing that we could do…It would be the greatest multiplier effect on the opportunities people might have in the camps, in the future, if they were able to get out of the camps.


Brownell, Ginanne. “Bringing Universities to Refugee Camps in Kenya.” New York Times, October 6, 2013. 

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). “Kenya-Somalia: Hungry for learning in Dadaab camps.” IRIN News, March 22, 2011,