Gaining hope through books

15th June 2021 | Blog

George Nandi knows first-hand the challenges refugees face in accessing quality education, but he also sees every day how books are changing lives by helping to provide it.

George works for the charity Windle International Kenya, which provides education to the thousands of refugees that live in one of the world’s largest refugee camps; Kakuma in northern Kenya. We spoke to him about his work, the people he supports and why he thinks books are key to a brighter future.

“My name is George Nandi, I work for Windle as an education officer, where I oversee the secondary education project. 

George

The refugees in Kakuma come from their country mostly because of war. They’re traumatised. They’ve walked long distances. Probably lost a majority of their family members and their loved ones along the way and in war. There was possibly a lot of torture for them to reach Kakuma.

They’re taken in at the reception centre, then the process of registration kicks in, either as an asylum seeker or a refugee. They’re integrated into the communities, housing is provided, food distributed.

Those of school-going age are enrolled into the education system, either at primary or secondary level. We also have other structures that ensure their lives are good. We have health partners that provide health services and we also have legal partners that ensure that they live within the confines of Kenyan law.

A teacher in a Kakuma secondary school

Windle is responsible for providing education at secondary level and takes care of close to 15,000 learners in seven secondary schools. Our role is to ensure we provide quality education. We’ve recruited qualified teachers to teach them and through partnerships with Book Aid International, UNHCR and other donors such as UK Aid, PRM or Ecofund, we’ve ensured that we provide teaching and learning resources to them. 

The best part of my job is the positive impact on the lives of refugees.

We’ve seen quite a number of success stories: people who have scored highly in the national examinations and joined universities, both in Kenya, as well as abroad.

All of this brings me joy, knowing that people who have lost hope can attain success.

The most challenging part of my job is to ensure that all learners have access to quality education. We have very few opportunities for secondary education: overcrowded classrooms, very few teachers, and by this I mean low teacher to learner ratios and very few reading and writing materials, for both the teachers and learners. The challenge is how do we optimally provide education knowing there is high demand against very low supply.

In secondary school, our classrooms are overcrowded. One classroom accommodates around 120 learners, which, of course, is way above what the government recommends. This simply tells you that the quality is compromised at this particular level. 

Books are a great resource for students. If you want to be successful, you have to be an avid reader. 

The knowledge that we find in those books helps us implement the curriculum. It also helps students gain knowledge. By digging through books, they can come upon knowledge that they may have not have learnt in the classroom. They can get experiences from other countries and from the world at large. And I can also say that books provide an escape route from trauma. It’s a kind of therapy. Especially those adventure books. They provide us, and students, with this fulfilling kind of feeling when we read them.

We get hope from those books. 

A book that gives characters as heroes can give the refugees a sense of heroism. They can get the resilience they need in difficult circumstances, overcome the challenges that they face in life as refugees, as well as gain skills and come up with ideas that can lead to livelihoods. 

For me, books are very important, and we’ve realised all of these things through support from Book Aid International and from other donors who have provided us with books.”

We would like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their support which has helped to fund our important and urgent work with Windle, reaching refugees across Africa with brand new life-changing books.