Language, education, and power in refugee camps: A comparison of Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) and Thai-Myanmar refugee camps

Le, Hang M.

While there is growing attention to language as a central issue in education for refugees, this policy area still appears to be dominated by an apolitical, technical, and instrumentalist perspective. Through a comparison of language-in-education policies in two refugee camp contexts, Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and the refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, this paper demonstrates how language policies are always deeply political in nature. In refugee contexts in particular, language policies in education reflect and reproduce existing power dynamics that can exclude refugees from decisionmaking processes about their own future. In Kakuma, language issues in education are decided by the international humanitarianism regime based on efficiency and costeffectiveness over the linguistic rights of the refugee community. Even when refugees are in control in the Thai-Myanmar refugee camps, decisions over the language of instruction are still political choices that serve to exclude many people.


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August 29, 2022