Theses Doctoral

School Persistence and Dropout Amidst Displacement: The Experiences of Children and Youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp

Cha, Jihae

Due to the protracted nature of forced displacement, a majority of refugees spend their entire academic cycles in exile (Milner & Loescher, 2011). While some successfully navigate their educational trajectories, others are unable to complete basic education. Despite the important role education plays in emergency, displacement, and resettlement, refugee education remains under-researched. There is a dearth of research that has investigated what factor(s) at individual, family, and school levels contribute to children and youth’s school persistence and dropout amidst displacement. This study aimed to fill this substantial gap in the literature by taking a balanced, comprehensive approach to investigate the experiences of children and youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Using a sequential mixed-methods design, this study examined the different factors that influenced the schooling of children and youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp. This study found that family poverty, inability to afford school uniforms and supplies, school uniform policy, living without parents/guardians, and family responsibilities were some of the major reasons that contributed to school dropout. By contrast, different types of support—financial, emotional, or academic—received from family members, teachers, and peers mainly influenced students’ persistence, despite persistent barriers in schooling. This study finds that ensuring educational access and persistence was not the role of a single stakeholder in education—i.e., a family member (parent), a head teacher, a teacher, or a student. Instead, different actors in children and youth’s sociocultural environments could play a role in influencing their decisions to (dis)continue education. The findings from this study not only contribute to expanding the knowledge base of education in emergencies, but they also support educators and practitioners who are providing and improving education for displaced populations, as well as policymakers within the Ministry of Education working to strengthen education systems and to foster access to quality education. My research findings may also prove meaningful in understanding the school persistence of school-aged children and youth in other refugee-hosting countries around the world, including the United States, and other mobile and marginalized populations in non-conflict settings.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
International and Transcultural Studies
Thesis Advisors
Mendenhall, Mary
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021