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Image credit: Xavier Project

Edmund Page: Xavier Project

Edmund Page: Xavier Project

Bringing education to refugees

Image above: Children from the school at Kalobeyei, Kenya

The Xavier Project works with refugees in East Africa. This World Humanitarian Day, Queen’s Young Leader, Edmund Page tells Leading Change how it has been expanding – thanks to its core values and partnership working.

We live in a world where 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced, including 25.4 million refugees and 3.1 million people seeking asylum. In an average day 44,400 people are forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution.

According to the United Nations we are currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement in recorded human history.

When we think of the many things refugees need, education may not be the first thing to spring to mind. But, says Queen’s Young Leader Edmund Page, it’s important to think not just of immediate needs, but five or ten years ahead – to think of their future.

“Refugees with skills will be able to apply themselves in lots of different ways,” he says. On the other hand, those who are illiterate, untrained, and uneducated will always be vulnerable.

The Xavier Project, which Edmund founded in 2008, supports the education of thousands of children and adult refugees across Kenya and Uganda through community-based partnerships and pioneering learning programmes.

Core values

"Working together in partnership with refugee communities" is one of the Xavier Project’s core values.

The latest venture is a new hub in a settlement in Uganda called Imvepi, which will be run by a community-based organisation called Community Alliance for Youth Empowerment (CAYE).

“We helped CAYE form and set up their governance structure. They are building their hub right now,” says Edmund.

Formed in March 2018, CAYE is made up of 80% refugees and 20% people from the local community. Xavier Project has raised funds for building the hub, while CAYE oversees the construction.

The hub will support the local community primary school which is too small for all the 5,185 students enrolled – some of whom study by looking through the windows.

A classroom crowded with children

Typical classroom, Imvepi, Kenya

Community learning hubs

Xavier Project is planning more community-run learning hubs alongside formal schools in refugee settlements – like the one at Impevi. The plan is to increase access to education not only for refugees but the local population as well.

"The hubs will each reach 3,000 refugee children,” says Edmund, “including further marginalised children and children with disabilities.”

But the hubs won’t just serve the refugees. They will also be used to promote educational skills among community leaders and teachers in local schools. To achieve this Xavier Project is working with the Ministry of Education and local government.

“The hubs will act as a partner to the formal schools,” says Edmund, adding that the aim is to “ease pressure on overcrowding of classrooms, teacher workload, inadequate teaching resources, and lack of co-curricular learning opportunities.”

Longamere Primary School

Longamere Primary School

The philosophy behind the hub concept is based on two key principles, which will keep it sustainable and help it grow. These are:

  • local communities should be involved in educating refugee children
  • new technology and innovation can help everyone learn more and save on resources.

Using technology

The hubs will also provide learning opportunities for children who have finished primary school but don’t have a place at secondary school. Such children will be offered the opportunity to continue studying online.

“With the community taking more ownership of the education of their children the lack of inclusion will be tackled at the source,” says Edmund.

This approach ties in with another of the Xavier Project’s core values – “Using innovative methods to deliver relevant education solutions”.

Since 2017, Xavier Project has been working with Enuma Inc – an American company that specialises in digital early learning – to deliver education through a tablet. The programme, called Kitkit, was trialled in the Kalobeyei refugee settlement in Kenya in early 2018.

The results were significant.

Edmund says, “Students who had participated in the Kitkit School intervention for eight weeks showed a much greater increase in test scores in comparison to their peers who had not.”

In fact, they increased their test scores by 30% to 45% in literacy, and 14% to 37% in maths.

A boy learns using a Kitkit tablet

A boy learns using a Kitkit tablet

Partnership working

Edmund attributes a lot of Xavier Project’s success to partnership working.

He says, “The most important aspect of managing a partnership and helping it grow is understanding your value in that partnership. Partnerships only exist because one party can offer something that the other party needs.”

He adds that sometimes it may seem that the donors “wield all the power” but points out donors depend on their partners to get results.

“It is important to highlight and focus on the bits you are most needed for – usually those are the bits you are best at.”

For Xavier Project this is the skill and expertise they have in providing education to refugees, particularly:

  • their good links with the communities they work with
  • the way they enable refugees to take ownership of the activities that affect them
  • and a team who quickly bring innovative approaches to complex problems.

“We often promote this community link and innovation when building partnerships with donors,” says Edmund, “and consistently show the value of these elements as they come through in our work.” 

To do this all team members need to be united in having one vision and way of expressing the values of the organisation.

“It is important to look for and build partnerships where you can add value,” says Edmund, “and always ensure that a partnership you embark on will help bring about the future you and your organisation would like to see.”

Edmund dancing a traditional dance with a lady at a festival

“It is important to look for and build partnerships where you can add value. And always ensure that a partnership you embark on will help bring about the future you and your organisation would like to see.”

Edmund Page