A Somalian man who has never seen life outside of a Kenyan refugee camp has called on the international community to equip refugees with skills that will help them get jobs.
This is more important than just relying on temporary relief programmes, he said.
Mohamad Hassan, 29, was a speaker at a panel discussion hosted during the International Government Communication Forum in Sharjah on Wednesday.
He became a popular voice for refugees after his compelling speech at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was invited as a co-chair.
Despite the growing international recognition that he has received, Mr Hassan still has to return to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya when the spotlight turns off.
He’s lived at the camp since he was two.
"I never received a higher education, so employment options are low for me," he told The National.
Mr Hassan lost his parents at a young age and looks after his young siblings on his own.
“I do translation jobs or take on other freelance opportunities I can find,” he said.
“Education is limited to just high school inside the camp. I’ve tried to apply to colleges abroad, but I don’t have a Somalian or Kenyan nationality.
"I’m a civil refugee and it can be difficult for us.
“We need permanent solutions to help refugees and equip them with lifelong skills. That is a more sustainable.
"You can't just keep supplying refugees with food and then leave. How will we survive on our own later on?”
At present there are 21 primary schools at his camp, but there are only five secondary ones.
Kakuma refugee camp data from The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that 94 per cent of secondary school children drop out and 87 per cent of those enrolled are over-aged.
Female students only constitute 22 per cent of the overall numbers whereas 57 per cent of the teachers are not trained.
Mr Hassan was joined in the panel by two Afghan refugees and a Kenyan refugee, who shared stories of how they haven’t let the ‘refugee tag’ define them.
Hina Shikani, 22, was born in Pakistan as an Afghan refugee. She campaigns for access to education for refugees.
“I was able to get an academic scholarship at a private college in Pakistan. There was only one seat available for a refugee and I got it,” she said.
Another speaker was Fatimah Hossaini, who lived in Iran as an Afghan refugee for several years.
She returned to Afghanistan in 2018 and now teaches photography and design at Kabul University.
Kenyan refugee Jessy Volonte also participated in the panel.
She’s the co-founder of the Solidarity Initiative for Refugees and an ICT instructor. She teaches girls web design, 3D modelling and basic computer skills.