Kenya: The realisation of many dreams
01 October 2013

Suad Sharif (left) receives her diploma certificate from Dr Patricia Ladewig (right), the Provost of Regis University, as the JC-HEM Kakuma Coordinator Elizabeth Lock looks on. This was during the graduation ceremony of JC-HEM Cohort one class held at the JRS Arrupe Centre in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. (Charles Njanga/JRS)
“I am very happy because it is my graduation day”, she says with a radiant smile. Her neat graduation gown shines in the golden rays of the afternoon Kakuma sun. “I have been waiting for this day for the last three years”, she adds.
Kakuma, 01 October 2013 – As the reality sinks in for the students of Jesuit Commons Higher Education at the Margins (JC-HEM) cohort one who graduated recently, it has been the culmination of a journey and fulfillment of many dreams. The colourful graduation ceremony that took place on Monday 23rd September 2013 at the JRS Arrupe Centre in Kakuma Refugee Camp saw 26 students graduate with a Diploma in Liberal Studies from Regis University in Denver Colorado (USA).

Each of the graduating students has a personal testimony of the struggle they went through during 3 years of the pioneering programme. At the beginning it had seemed like a far-fetched dream but on the graduation day, the excitement of the students and their friends and families was infectious.

One of the graduating students is Suad Sharif Mohamed who has lived in Kakuma for the last 15 years. Suad joined the JC-HEM programme in October 2010, initially starting with a bridge course, before beginning the main course in 2011. “I am very happy because it is my graduation day”, she says with a radiant smile. Her neat graduation gown shines in the golden rays of the afternoon Kakuma sun. “I have been waiting for this day for the last three years”, she  adds.

Utilising the skills gained. Suad who is a head-teacher in one of the schools at Kakuma Refugee Camp intends to share the knowledge gained with her family, community and with the teachers at her school. She acknowledges that the education gained has greatly improved her teaching skills. She has also earned respect as being the only graduating lady from a section of the camp in which she lives  “JC-HEM gave us hope”, she adds.

According to Suad, the inter-cultural communication skills she has gained has taught her to live with people from other communities. “I am now able to interact with people from other cultures”, she says with a smile. This, she admits, has enabled her to socialise with people from other cultures. “A change comes when you are educated. Without education, there is no change in the world”, she reflectively says. Suad urges other refugees to get educated in order to change the world.

Suad greatly appreciates the assistance she has received from JRS and JC-HEM. After she had completed her primary school level education, JRS sponsored her through high schoolinKitale, which is over 400 kilometres from Kakuma.. She appreciates the fact that she is who she is today because of the support from the two organizations. “I am a product of JRS and JC-HEM”, she proudly acknowledges.

Motivation for the studies. For another student Christopher Abilomit, the graduation was the continuation of his educational journey. Christopher who is from northern Uganda near the border with Sudan shared this joyous occasion with his family. According to him, he was already motivated to study even before coming to Kakuma after seeing the value of education back in his home country.

Upon arrivalinKakuma, he had applied for a scholarship but was not successful for lack of  a certificate. He then applied to JC-HEM and was  accepted into cohort one. According to him education at JC-HEM is very different from what he had thought. “The Professors at JC-HEM ask you questions that make you think and reason”, he clarifies.

Christopher says that at the beginning, he did not know how to speak well until he was taught communication. This according to him made him know himself. “One of the things that made me very strong is philosophy and conduct. It was very powerful”, he admits. He further says that, “Through this education and my faith, I am now free.”

Praise for the education offered. Christopher encourages other refugees to join the JC-HEM programme and receive education. “Whoever wants to succeed in this world and be an active citizen in this world  needs to take this education seriously”, he declares. He has also learnt to appreciate other people’s culture from the education received. “There is no culture that is superior to another”, he emphatically declares.

He further praises the education given at JC-HEM saying that it incorporates both the mind and heart unlike other forms currently offered. “Let them come and see the truth from here the way I have seen it”, he adds.

Christopher says that he is already giving back to his community by teaching He intends to utilize his education to find out the root cause of alcoholism in his community and come up with a solution.

For these two JC-HEM graduates and others in their class, the graduation is a realization of many dreams. They will now be able to move along their career path with more confidence.

By Charles Njanga, JRS Eastern Africa Regional Communications Officer

JRS started working with refugees in Kakuma in 1994 focusing on two broad areas, education and psycho-social support. JRS projects target the most vulnerable, who face the greatest challenges, their conditions having been aggravated by displacement and the living conditions in the camp. The JC-HEM distance education programme is the newest addition to the JRS education initiatives in Kakuma.