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Kenya: JRS higher education projects evolve
16 September 2010

Local and refugee students of the University of South Africa supported by JRS in a number of ways: financial, material and human, Kakuma, Kenya (Peter Balleis SJ/ JRS)
Using the expertise of Jesuit universities and JRS field staff, the organisations plan to use the internet and on-site teachers, mentors and tutors, to offer higher education courses to more than 1,000.
Kakuma, 13 September 2010 – JRS has announced modifications to its higher education distance learning courses.

The existing distance learning programme with the University of South Africa (UNISA) and Social Work and Community Development (KISWCD) will be wound down at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. This correspondence course will be replaced by an e-learning programme to be rolled out in Kenya, Malawi and Syria.

Although students on UNISA/KISWCD courses receive support from JRS staff and are able to use the organisation's facilities, materials frequently arrive late, and when students face difficulties they are unable to discuss these issues face-to-face with their teachers.

According to Daniel Macharia, a tutor from Kenya, the materials are very good when they come. Unfortunately, he says, they frequently arrive very late. Compared to the materials Mr Macharia received in university, these are extremely good, he added.

The JRS programme with UNISA and KISWCD began 11 years ago. In the interim, 66 students began the Bachelor of Arts or Commerce degree courses offered by UNISA. Of the total 21 graduated, four of whom are doing post-graduates in Nairobi and Canada. Currently, there are seven students taking degree courses through UNISA. A further 41 students registered for certificate and diploma courses in KISWCD. Of this number 23 graduated and 10 students are currently finishing off certificate courses.

Of the university graduates, many have gone on to work for the government in their home countries and NGOs in Kenya. While most KISWCD graduates found employment as community counsellors, community health workers, teachers, medical assistants and social workers, the rest left the programme for a variety of reasons, such as repatriation and resettlement in third countries.

Expanded project

This latest Jesuit initiative, 'Higher Education at the Margins', seeks to offer refugees opportunities to broaden their minds and help their communities. The programme – a partnership between JRS and Jesuit Commons – combines the best of new technology with the Jesuit philosophy of Ignatian pedagogy which emphasises experience and new learning; reflection and evaluation; and action and service.

Using the expertise of Jesuit universities and JRS field staff, the organisations plan to use the internet and on-site teachers, mentors and tutors, to offer accredited certificate and diploma courses to refugees in Kakuma (Kenya) and Dzaleka (Malawi) camps, and in urban areas in Syria, as well as certificates of learning, known as Community Service Learning Track (CSLT). In the pilot phase of the programme, ending in August 2014, more than 1,000 refugees are expected to participate.

Some of the difficulties faced by students in the original course will continue to cause problems, such as access to electricity, water and food. Moreover, the heat also can be unbearable, and fighting occasionally breaks out in the camp or surrounding areas. However, with online lessons and delivery of materials by email, JRS expects to be able to iron out difficulties rapidly and give students a higher quality of service.

More details will be released on the new project when it is officially launched on 27 September 2010.

Press Contact Information
Mr James Stapleton
+39 06 6897 7465