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Dadaab refugee students desperate for overseas scholarships repeat high school exams

Wednesday January 15, 2020

Somali students in Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya have been repeating their high school exams several times over trying to secure grades that may qualify them for Canadian scholarships.

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Principals at high schools in the camps told Radio Ergo that over 100 students repeated the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams last year, after getting lower than the minimum B+ for boys and B- for girls required for the scholarships.

Mohamed Ali, 23, sat the exams last November and plans to enroll at Waberi high school in Hagardhera camp to take the exams again next year. He sat them in 2018 and 2019, but the best he got was a C- grade.

“I can’t afford to pay for university education, nor do I have anyone to support me, so my only option is to repeat the exams,” he said.

Mohamed came to Dadaab in 2005 after fleeing Bu’ale town in southern Somalia’s Middle Juba region with his grandfather. He said one of the reasons that his grandfather brought him to Dadaab was to get education. He is determined to clinch one of highly sought-after Canadian scholarship for refugee students.

However, Mohamed is worried that the school may not allow him to sit the exams for a third time. If that happens, his grandfather is prepared to pay the 5,000 Kenya shillings a month fees to enroll at a private school to sit for the next exams.

Not all the students are quite as determined as Mohamed. Omar Abdi Garane, a 24-year old refugee student in Hagardhera, has given up after getting a C grade his second time round in the KCSE exams. He is now exploring other options, including applying for local universities.

Abdiweli Hussein Mohamed, principal of Al-bushra group of schools, believes that the repeated attempts to secure higher marks wastes the student’s time and negatively impacts their prospects for the future as it can lead to disappointment and despondency.

“It is good for students to aim high, but they should not pin all their hopes and efforts on a very limited number of Canadian scholarships,” said Abdiweli.

Many of the high school graduate in Dadaab opt to return to Somalia to look for jobs there, while others remain in the refugee camps and usually take up various entrepreneurial or vocational activities to earn a living

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