In August 2015, Kepler opened a branch campus at the Kiziba Refugee Camp in western Rwanda with support from the IKEA Foundation, Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. The Kiziba camp was opened to refugees two decades ago for those fleeing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today it is home to over 17,000 refugees.
Kepler Kiziba allows promising students living in the camp to earn a U.S. accredited degree from Southern New Hampshire University and pursue employment opportunities. Enrollment rates in tertiary education programs for refugees are at 1% (compared with 36% worldwide), and like many other refugee settings, residents in Kiziba had very few opportunities to obtain a tertiary degree before Kepler opened.
The Kepler Kiziba site is also a learning laboratory, in which we are refining best practices for the provision of high-quality education and transitions to employment for refugees, As part of our commitment to sharing what we learn and learning from others, Kepler was an early member of the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium and is one of the first awardees of the Humanitarian Education Accelerator grant.
The challenges faced by our Kiziba students require increased attention to skill building in English and technology. At the same time, the complexities and unique context of the camp setting have pushed us to design an increasingly flexible academic model that is fully self-paced by using phases. This better accommodates individualized learning and any interruptions that may arise in a student’s learning journey.
There are over 22 million refugees worldwide. Over 4 million refugees have been in exile for 20 years or more, including the majority of residents in Kiziba Refugee Camp. Innovative education and livelihoods programming for youth can provide a durable solution in these protracted humanitarian settings. See more about our partnership with UNHCR here.