Five months after the infamous crackdown on Somali refugees in Nairobi, a number of Somali nationals studying in Kenyan universities and mid-level colleges decided to stop their classes and return to Somalia, or seek education elsewhere thanks to a sweeping anti-Somali refugee rhetoric both by Kenyan officials and political leaders.
The tense atmosphere came at a time when the students were going through hard time since most of them were self-sponsored and majority had already dropped out due to lack of tuition fees.
Frustrated and with no help in sight, they met in a bid to make sense of what happened and what they would do going forward.
One of the students suggested an idea—they would get in touch with the chairman of the Mount Kenya University Muslim Youths Association Abdirahman Hassan and see if he could get them connected to the university’s administration to express their fears.
“We invited him to Thika and he came,” Mohamed Warsame, a Fourth Year student at the Thika campus said. Mohamed is among the hundreds of students studying at the private university on a refugee status.
“We asked him if he can advance our issues to the administration and he obliged.
We could not just come out in group because of the political atmosphere then,” he added.
Mohamed was referring to “Usalama Watch”, a security crackdown in early 2014 that saw the deportation of hundreds of Somali nationals back to Somalia following twin blasts in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate that killed four Kenyan nationals.
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto said the undocumented refugees provided cover for the “terrorist operating in Eastleigh” although the government could not provide any reasonable link between the twin blasts and the crackdown that caused global uproar.
The operation came five months after the Westgate Mall attack claimed by the Somali based militant group Al Shabab where at least 67 people died.
The group claimed it was avenging for the “deaths and destruction perpetrated by the Kenyan army in Somalia.”
After meeting the frustrated students, the chairman of the Muslim student club went straight to the embassy of Somalia in Nairobi to meet the former ambassador, Mohamed Ali Nur alias Ali Americo.
Amb. Ali Americo, now vying to be the next president of Somalia, advised the students to keep their cool and continue with their classes.
Two months later on the 29th of October 2014, Amb. Ali Americo facilitated the award of 26 students with sponsorship to continue with their classes as part of the EU-Somalia scholarship programme.
The beneficiaries were students from the Daadab refugee camp, the biggest refugee complex in the world.
“This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the university and the CfBT Education Trust, an education charity headquartered in the United Kingdom,” a statement by the university said.
The scholarship beneficiaries enrolled at Mount Kenya University, Thika Campus to pursue courses in Project Management, Public Relations and Diplomacy.
Kulan Post understands that two of the 26 students who received the sponsorship have since secured employment in Kenya’s Rift Valley region.
“The Kenyan law does not allow refugees to have formal jobs in its territory and exposing our identities could harm our career,” the duo argued when we caught up with them in Nakuru and Eldoret town in the formerly Rift Valley province of Kenya.
Most high school graduates in Daadab do not get the opportunity to join colleges due to the expensive cost of higher learning in Kenya.
“Once you get your secondary school degree, there is no other place to go to improve your education,” Abdullahi Abdi, 23, said when he took part in the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees, or BHER sponsorship programme in 2013.
“A lot of people remain in the refugee complex and become idle. So you cannot even imagine what a golden opportunity this is for us.”