York researchers co-lead the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees Project (BHER) that is bringing post-secondary education to the residents of one of the world’s largest refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya

Students studying in a classroom in Kenya

York University Professors Wenona Giles and Don Dippo co-lead the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees development project (BHER), an international development project that aims to improve equity in higher education, prepare local uncertified refugee teachers, improve teaching practices for better student achievement at elementary and secondary levels, and provide a number of university degree programs in and around the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

The project, which commenced in 2013, received more than $4.5 million in funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) over a five year period and serves as a model in other marginalized communities throughout the world that seek to achieve access to higher education. The project engages multiple Canadian and Kenya-based institutions including Kenyatta and Moi universities in Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), University of British Columbia and Windle Trust Kenya

In 2015, 59 students in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya graduated from the York University Certificate of Completion in Educational Studies program, as part of an ongoing initiative by the BHER project. Two-thirds of the 59 students already work as teachers in the camps’ schools. BHER has also led to the founding of the BHER Eastern Africa Partnership led by Kenyatta and Moi universities.

Don Dippo is University Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University.  His interests include: the social and political organization of knowledge, environmental and sustainability education, global migration and settlement; university/community relations; and teacher education.  He serves on the Executive Committee of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and is on the Board of Directors of Success Beyond Limits, a not-for-profit, community-based organization that supports high school age youth in Toronto’s Jane/Finch community.

Wenona Giles is Professor of Anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies at York University, Toronto and is a Resident Faculty member of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University. She is a long-time researcher who has taught and published in the areas of migration (including forced migration), refugee issues, gender, ethnicity, nationalism, work, globalization, and war. Her current research activity focuses on long term encampments and access to higher education for marginalized populations. Her books include Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict ZonesFeminists Under Fire: Exchanges Across War Zones (2004); Development and Diaspora: Gender and the Refugee Experience (1996); and her forthcoming (2016) co-authored book (with Jennifer Hyndman) is entitled Refugees in Extended Exile: Living on the Edge.

To learn more about the BHER project, please visit their website.