Kenya: The impact of a JRS scholarship
18 September 2012

Refugee students living in Nairobi, Kenya, light candles to pray for success in their secondary school exams. Joseph Waweru/JRS
The question I ask is what would have happened if JRS had not reached out to assist us?
Nairobi, 19 September 2012 – My name is Tesfu*, formerly a civil servant and senior NGO worker from Asmara, Eritrea, now a refugee living in Nairobi, Kenya.

In August 2010 my wife, my two sons and my little girl moved from Eritrea to join me in Kenya as I had secured a very good new job in Nairobi and the future looked bright. However what should have been a time for new beginnings quickly turned sour. Due to hostilities in my home country I unexpectedly became at risk back home and so my ability to do my new role was compromised.

I had to leave my job and myself and my family had to seek asylum. We soon became mandated refugees in Kenya.

It was a situation I was totally unprepared for. Suddenly unemployed, not allowed to work, and unable to return home, I found myself using up my savings and scraping around for a way to earn small amounts of cash.

Despite this sudden change of events, it remained my priority to ensure my children received their education. I have a BA in Economics so I greatly understand the value of education.

Schooling despite the odds

Primary school is free in Kenya, so despite my desperate situation, my two sons were able to join a local school. At the end of the academic year I was overjoyed to see they had passed with satisfactory results.

Having drained my small savings to pay for our family's upkeep, I found that despite their academic potential, I did not have the money to send my boys to secondary school.

That was until I heard about Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and their school scholarship scheme for refugees. I quickly applied for assistance and luckily was accepted. JRS took on the burden of school fees, uniforms and textbooks, according my boys a chance at a future they deserve.

At the end of their first and second terms, I found out that both my boys had scored an ‘A'. Thanks to JRS, they are now being sponsored through their third term.

The question I ask is what would have happened if JRS had not reached out to assist us? We have been so lucky and I want to thank JRS for the scholarships.

Our family dreams for a time when we can be re-settled in another country as it is not safe for us to return to Eritrea. Until then, we continue to survive in Nairobi and hope for a successful education for our sons.

*Not real name

The JRS Education Programme in Nairobi, Kenya provides scholarships to allow over 150 refugee children per year to attend pre-primary and secondary school, as well as vocational training. During 2012, this number will rise to 217. Support includes assistance with fees and the purchase of uniforms and textbooks. On 27 August 2012, JRS Nairobi organised a Mass to pray for success for the pioneer group of JRS-sponsored students who are sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in November. The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Terry Charlton, SJ, Assistant Provincial, Jesuit Province of Eastern Africa.