RET Accelerated Secondary Education Programme for Refugees in Kenya

RET implemented Secondary Accelerated Education Programmes in three Dadaab refugee camps to increase enrolment in, completion of, and certification in education by overage, out-of-school youth.
Children, adolescents & youth

RET Accelerated Secondary Education Programme for Refugees in Kenya

RET implemented Secondary Accelerated Education Programmes in three Dadaab refugee camps to increase enrolment in, completion of, and certification in education by overage, out-of-school youth.

Contact details 

Submitted by: Lauren Burns, Knowledge Management Manager 

Email: [email protected]


Introduction to the project


Kenya, in three camps in Dadaab—Dagahaley, Ifo 1, and Hagadera 


Since July 2013 


Although refugee are legally allowed to attend Kenyan public schools there are logistical challenges largely insurmountable for those living in camps. With only 7 formal secondary schools, compared to 35 primary schools, there is a sever lack of access, in Dadaab, to secondary education. Most primary school students never have the opportunity to obtain a secondary education, causing a rising demand in camps for access to secondary education. 

Providing youth opportunities to start, continue, or complete their secondary education is particularly important for building self-reliance, easing pressure of host communities, and creating sustainable solutions. 

Thus, RET implemented a secondary AEP in Dadaab camps to increase enrolment in, completion of, and certification in education by overage, out-of-school youth.  RET`s secondary AEP supported the sustainability of refugee durable solutions of voluntary repatriation, resettlement, and local integration, as educated youth are better prepared to face the challenges and be more self-reliant. 

RET collaborated with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development to design the AEP programme. RET’s acceleration timetable was for students to complete the full 4-year curriculum in 2.5 years.  

RET designed an age, gender appropriate, and flexible program to accommodate the needs of their overage, working and parenting students. AEP employed the “andragogy” method for teaching adult learners, ensuring the age appropriateness of instruction.  AEP offered morning and afternoon sessions and while students ideally attended both, if students could only attend one they were not excluded from the program. APE offered opportunities for self-directed study and education facilitators were available on weekends and school breaks for additional support.  AEP monitored attendance rate, enabling targeted follow-up. 

AEP addressed enrolment, attendance and challenges facing female youth. RET established young female committees to engage in awareness raising campaigns to sensitize the community about the importance of young women/girls schooling and attendance. Centres had segregated latrines and provided sanitary materials. RET recruited female facilitators and encouraged male students to support their female peers. 

Appropriately trained education facilitators were crucial for success. Before each school year, education facilitators, the majority refugees, participated in pre-service orientations to understand AE, types of documentation to keep, and andragogy teaching methods. Annual assessments were conducted evaluating skills to determine additional training/mentioning needs. RET partnered with Mount Kenya University, arranging scholarships for facilitators to pursue B.Ed. diplomas, promoting professional development and encouraging retention.  

Ret collaborated with partners across sectors. AEP Centre in Dagahaley received water from Care International and programs addresssing trauma and gender-based violence in camps to supplement the AEP to serve the needs of students.  

The AEP effectively utilised community engagement. As the link between the school and the community, RET partnered with the School Management Board (SMB), composed of parents, headmasters, and RET staff, having it manage aspects of AEP Centres. RET strategically shifted more management capacity to the SMB to ensure the programme was maintained in an effective and sustainable way. 

Secondary AEP that meets the multifaceted needs of out-of-school, overage youth is easily adapted, replicated, and broadened in scale. 

Project aims 

The objective was to provide overage, out-of-school, refugee youth with the opportunity to obtain a secondary education and certification so they could pursue higher education and better job opportunities. The goal was to capacitate and build self-reliance of youth, creating a more durable refugee solution upon repatriation and resettlement. 

Resources used 

  • US BPRM funding.
  • Kenya`s Basic Education Act included refugees in its guarantee of the right to education. 
  • Refugee students could sit national examinations and awarded education certifications by Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. 
  • RET’s work with refugee adolescents and youth in Kenya since 2012. 
  • RET’s presence and access to refugee adolescents and youth through programmes designed to fulfil their potential in similar geographic areas (youth empowerment; support youth-led local initiatives, entrepreneurial-self-reliance training; life skills programmes).


  • Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST)  
  • Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD) 
  • Mount Kenya University 

Challenges and how they were overcome

Youth Responsibilities:  Youth targeted had responsibilities making it difficult or impossible to attend secondary school.  Only 25% of students in secondary schools were girls. Barriers included early/forced marriage, early pregnancy, working to support families, and not being permitted to attend.  

Education Facilitators: Many teachers believed learning occurs best when standing in front and lecturing while learners remain quiet. This instruction method was not appropriate for the age and needs of the learners. RET needed to help facilitators acquire appropriate skills and techniques.  

School/Exam Centre Registration: To administer Kenya Certificate School Education (KCSE) AEP Centres must be registered as formal schools & exam centres. If AEP Centers could not proctor exams they would have to obtain permission for youth to leave camps, find available exam sites, and transport students great distances at the cost of the organisation.  

4-year Gap Requirement: KCSE required students to have at least a four-year-gap between taking primary and secondary education exams. Students completing AEP directly after sitting primary exams would have a three-year-gap and therefore not eligible to register.  

How these challenges were overcome: 

Addressing registration requirements: RET worked with local Ministry officials to register AEP Centres as exam sites, allowing Centres to proctor exams in camps, increasing students’ access to exams and saving the programme transportation costs. 

Addressing 4-year gap requirement: Learners entering AEP directly after taking primary exams remained in AEP for an additional year, preparing exclusively for the KCSE exam.  

Addressing learner’s multifaceted needs: RET accommodated the needs of overage, working, and parenting students by designing an age appropriate and flexible program with requirements in attendance. 

Addressing learner’s enrolment & attendance, especially girls:  RET collaborated with School Management Boards and established young female committees to raise awareness and sensitize the community on the importance of girls/young women education. 

Capacitating education facilitators: RET provided annual training, coaching, and peer monitoring. RET partnered with Mount Kenya University arranging scholarships for facilitators to pursue B.Ed. distance-diplomas. 

Results of the Good Practice 

  • 2,647 out-of-school, overage refugee students obtained a secondary education and given the opportunity to obtain a secondary education certification.  
  • 3 years of secondary education played a positive role in changing learners’ and community’s life prospects and perspectives. Youth viewed completion of AEP as an opportunity to reach dreams, attend higher education, or get better jobs. Community appreciated the program, thankful their youth could continue their education. 
  • Youth experienced positive social benefits, feelings of higher personal or professional status. 
  • Improved employability profiles for improved livelihoods, opportunities to become AEP teachers or primary/secondary refugee schoolteachers.  
  • Increased eligibility for scholarships for tertiary education. 

Next steps 

The project ended due to lack of funding. The donor set other priorities which unfortunately didn’t include youth education.  Moreover, changes in policies regarding encampment, closures of some camps and transferring of refugees to other camps all disturbed RET’s continuation plans. 

The experience and approach is well capitalised within RET, thus if opportunities arises RET can re-open the programme.