Bridging the Distance in Distance E-Learning Lessons from Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee Camps in Kenya
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organisations now categorize the provision of education in emergencies as a humanitarian response to disaster. However, the very nature of an emergency situation makes the provision of education a daunting task. When entire populations are displaced and forced to live in camps as refugees in a host country, they are unlikely to have access to the physical infrastructure and other resources required for education, especially higher education. An innovative way of availing higher education opportunities to refugee populations is through distance education programmes, particularly those delivered through online e-learning platforms. As universities continue to embrace the role of humanitarian actors, they are increasingly recognizing that distance education programmes, more so e-learning ones, have the potential of reaching a wider population of refugees, enabling them access to education without requiring institutions to have a physical presence in a refugee camp. The actualization of this potential in a refugee camp setting, however, is not without challenges. Drawing on experiences from facilitating and managing a joint online certificate course targeted at refugees living in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, this paper seeks to show that the challenges, ranging from physical distance to lack of computer skills, are doubly pronounced in refugee settings. Further, the paper highlights the innovative solutions that were used to mitigate the said challenges and shows how they can be adopted when designing distance e-learning programmes for both emergency and non-emergency situations in Africa.