University of Geneva (SWITZERLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 83-88
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.0032
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Higher education in refugee contexts is seldom created, administered or delivered by refugees. More often than not, higher education programmes operating within the confines of the forced migration management system are imported into refugee camps via online learning platforms and, to a lesser extent, via a western education provider’s ‘campus’ model. Courses which refugee learners participate in are usually not contextualised to consider the particularities of refugee life, nor are they delivered through means that best reflect the pedagogical needs of these students.

InZone, a programme for higher education in refugee contexts at the University of Geneva, has been enabling higher education in Kakuma refugee camp for the past 5 years. During this time the programme has attempted to follow a ‘refugee-led management’ approach, which involves a core team of refugees from the camp working with colleagues at the University of Geneva to build a higher education community in the camp, contribute to course contextualisation, administer and deliver the programme. InZone’s initial efforts to follow this approach was limited to the refugee-led management team managing the day-to-day implementation of courses and occasionally giving feedback to curriculum designers and teachers. As the model evolved and grew, a collaborative learning ecosystem was developed to incorporate refugees as class facilitators who work with tutors and lecturers to deliver classes and allow for vital context and curriculum feedback to flow between refugee management, facilitators, course leaders and the students.

Like elsewhere, the pandemic has impacted heavily on education in refugee camps. Lockdowns and other restrictions on movement within, around, in and out of camps have resulted in many programmes calling a halt to their operations until further notice. The unavoidable slowdown in operations during 2020 has given the programme a moment to breath, take stock of its operations, re-calibrate its approach towards building a stronger and more resilient model in Kakuma. With a new refugee management team taking the helm in Summer 2020, InZone set out to refine its approach to better reflect the needs of refugee students and the conditions of the camp in which they live. In order to do this, InZone embarked on a 4-month long transformative capacity building project which involved InZone academics and the new management team meeting regularly to delve into the academic discourse surrounding higher education in refugee contexts, developing and delivering operations training and devising a unified approach to chart the way forward for a more effective refugee-led management approach.

Using InZone’s experience in Kakuma as a backdrop, this research asks the following questions: why is a refugee-led management approach important for the future of higher education in refugee contexts; what the outcomes of a refugee-led management approach can be for refugees in camps and their education partners elsewhere; and how a refugee-led management approach can be achieved by navigating through the confines of the forced migration management system. By charting the trajectory of InZone’s refugee-led management team over the course of the capacity building project, from a passive implementing body to active engine of higher education in Kakuma, we aim to provide a blue print framework for other higher education in emergency programmes.
Refugee higher education, blended learning, refugee-led management.