NAT 201206 TBHF1-1607245879988
TBHF and Sharjah Charity House officials during a previous visit to refugee settlements in Kenya’s north western region. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based humanitarian organisation, has launched a project to construct a girls’ boarding secondary school at the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement in Kenya.

Funded by a $1 million (Dh3.67 million) grant from the NGO, Sharjah Charity House, the boarding school, which is expected to be ready in time for the 2021 academic year, will benefit 360 girl students, which will include refugees in the settlement as well as girls from the surrounding host community. The project is expected to help meet the educational needs of the community’s girlchildren, as Kalobeyei settlement currently has only one non-boarding secondary school for girls.

Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of TBHF, said: “This project represents a significant step in TBHF’s efforts to provide children in refugee camps and host communities, the opportunity to learn and reach for their fullest potential. Education offers children the best pathway to a better life, and no child should be denied that opportunity regardless of their present circumstances.”

Refugee influx

Hammadi emphasised that with the increasing influx of refugees into the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement and the Kakuma refugee camp, it was critical to ensure access to education for refugee children as well as children in the host community, in order to safeguard their and their nation’s future.

She added: “Under the guidance and inspirational leadership of Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of TBHF, we seek to provide education to as many young and innocent victims of war and disaster, and enable them to look forward with hope. The inclusion of refugees in the education system requires strong partnerships and a significant investment of time and resources to support the children and youth to succeed, and we are thankful to Sharjah Charity House for their donation.”

Sultan Al Khayyal, Secretary-General of Sharjah Charity House, said: “This project reaffirms the enduring value of learning and knowledge as powerful foundations of life for individuals everywhere. The project, an outcome of our collaboration with The Big Heart Foundation, marks a step forward in the provision of a safe and secure learning environment for girls who have to tackle numerous challenges in their daily lives.”

Education crisis

At present, nearly half of school aged children are out of school in the Turkana County region, where the settlement is located. Girl students constitute only 24.5 per cent of the overall enrolment.

While there are 26 primary schools in the region, only seven secondary schools are available in Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei Settlement, supporting learning for 13,000 students. One of the secondary schools is a girl’s boarding school situated in Kakuma. The Kalobeyei Settlement has only one non-boarding school for girls. In 2019, over 400 girls applied for a place at this school but only 90 could be accommodated due to space constraints. Demand is projected to grow rapidly in 2020 and beyond.