Secondary school student in Kakuma

Girls succeeding through books and lamps in Kakuma

1st April 2020 | Blog

Our Solar Homework Club project in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp recently won the Educational Initiatives category of London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards.

London Book Fair award

Getting a good education in Kakuma is hard. Schools are oversubscribed and vastly under-resourced. Teachers are largely students’ only source of information. In addition, without electricity at home, pupils’ time to read, revise and complete homework ends when it gets dark.

The Solar Homework Club project aims to remove some of these barriers to reading and learning by providing solar lamps and new curriculum support books and novels for secondary school students to borrow and use to support their studies after school.

The project is making a particular difference for girls in the camp. Here, female students and staff from Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls, Vision Secondary School and Somali Bantu Secondary School tell us more:


Kakuma friends
Three friends from Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls with big ambitions for the future


What are the challenges you face living in Kakuma Refugee Camp?

Yvonne, school librarian: We are not allowed to move outside the refugee camp – you have to seek permission and you should have a very good reason to go. You cannot just say ‘I want to see a new place’ – it is not acceptable since we are refugees. So we are confined in the camp.

Fortune, student: That is why education is important – it can give us the opportunity to leave the camp.

… few families are like our families … They keep their daughters at home to cook and fetch water.

Amia, student: My parents are happy that I am in school. But few families are like our families. They do not know the importance of education. They keep their daughters at home to cook and fetch water.

Martha, student: Many other girls don’t live with parents. They are the mother and father of their siblings. They cook for their brothers and sisters. Many times, they have to do assignments in the morning when they come to school.

Yvonne: We also face security issues like assault. You can’t walk around in the camp. The camp has small roads and lots of bushes where people can hide. So if you are a girl walking around at night, you can be raped.

Kakuma school library
Choosing books from Kakuma Secondary School’s library

Why do you think it is important to have books to support your studies?

Amia: Before the teacher comes to class you have to go through the book and look at the topic. When the teacher comes, you understand more. But if there are no books you cannot get the first-hand information that you want. It can lower your grade.

Yvonne: From my childhood I have seen people succeeding through education – and you get education through books.

Reading science books in the library
Referring to science books at Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls in Kakuma

How are the new books helping?

Aisha, student: The books are good for revision as they have clear pictures, e.g. biology and chemistry books.

Nyamal, student: The books have helped. I like reading the books with pictures as it helps me understand better.

Irene, school principal: Before, we never had a single novel in the school. Now, students read a lot during ‘quiet time’ time every day.

The books are good for revision as they have clear pictures.

Flyann, student: The English books help us build vocabulary … I find them very good. I want to be a student of literature.

Amia: The storybooks also have words of encouragement because most of the books talk about students who faced challenges and were successful in the end. They give us motivation!

And how are the solar lamps helping?

Student: The lamps have enabled us to expand prep time at night as well as do early morning reading. The lights also help us to have group discussion in the dormitories after preps.

Kadurenge, school principal: The solar lamps have helped reduce time walking to school and back at night for preps, giving them more time to read at home. Girls are especially grateful to be able to do homework at home every night. There is improvement in performance.

The lamps have enabled us to expand prep time at night as well as do early morning reading.

Zaki male student: Girls with lights read and perform well.

Amia: We have maximum time for revisions and so I get good grades. My parents are very happy about it and know that I will become successful.

Working hard in class at Vision Secondary School

What are your hopes for the future?

Nyaneng, student: I come to school to fulfil my dream of becoming an engineer in order to support my country.

Anisa, student: I want to change my life to a new one through education. I want to become a teacher to teach the  next generation.

Yvonne: I have read about women who have succeeded. I believe I can succeed too.

I have read about women who have succeeded. I believe I can succeed too.

Many thanks to Intouch Global Foundation for their generous support of our Solar Homework Club project.

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