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Top Kenyan university opens campus next to world's largest refugee camp

News Stories, 10 October 2012

© UNHCR
Refugees take part in the opening ceremony for the new Kenyatta University campus in Dadaab.

DADAAB, Kenya, October 10 (UNHCR) Nairobi's Kenyatta University has opened a campus in the north-east town of Dadaab and courses will be open to Kenyan citizens and refugees living in the nearby refugee complex, the world's biggest with almost half-a-million people.

UNHCR officials working in Dadaab attended the formal opening on Tuesday of the tertiary education facility, which will welcome its first students in January for diploma, undergraduate and master's courses in subjects such as finance, marketing, project management, education, public administration, community mobilization, peace and conflict studies.

The campus, the latest of several opened by Kenyatta University in Nairobi and other towns, will benefit both refugees and Kenyans living in North Eastern Province. It was built on an empty site in Dadaab town.

"This is a big leap forwards, it is a win-win situation a win for Kenya and a win for the refugees," said Dominik Bartsch, head of UNHCR's operations in Dadaab. Kenyatta University's official web site says that one of its visions is to "be a centre of excellence in refugee education" and adds that it aims to "empower the refugees through tertiary education, capacity building and research so as to effectively prepare them for post conflict arbitration/mediation and reintegration."

Bartsch said the opening of the Dadaab campus would "serve as an incentive for refugee children to complete school and proceed to obtain higher qualifications." He also pointed out that a university degree would allow refugees to make a contribution to Kenyan society and they could also help rebuild their country once peace returned. Most of the refugees in Dadaab are from Somalia.

Courses offered at the university will directly benefit the education sector in the refugee camps through diploma courses on topics such as school management and early childhood education.

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The refugees had arrived in recent weeks and months after fleeing drought and conflict in Somalia. They settled spontaneously on the edge of Ifo camp, one of three existing camps in the Dadaab complex, that has been overwhelmed by the steadily growing influx of refugees.

The new Ifo Extension site will provide tented accommodation to 90,000 refugees in the coming months. Latrines and water reservoirs have been constructed and are already in use by the families that have moved to this site.

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Running out of space: Somali refugees in Kenya

The three camps at Dadaab, which were designed for 90,000 people, now have a population of about 250,000 Somali civilians, making it one of the world's largest and most congested refugee sites. UNHCR fears tens of thousands more will arrive throughout 2009 in this remote corner of north-east Kenya as the situation in their troubled country deteriorates further.

Resources, such as food and water, have been stretched dangerously thin in the overcrowded camps, with sometimes 400 families sharing one tap. There is no room to erect additional tents and the new arrivals are forced to share already crowded shelters with other refugees.

In early 2009, the Kenyan government agreed to allocate more land at Dadaab to accommodate some 50,000 refugees. View photos showing conditions in Dadaab in December 2008.

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