Hoping against the Odds: Understanding Refugee Youths’ Aspirations for Gaining Overseas Scholarships

Why do young refugees in the Dadaab camps in Kenya aspire to gain resettlement-based scholarships for tertiary education when the odds of getting them are minimal? The existing literature sheds light on the strong educational aspirations of refugee youth. However, our understanding is obscure of why they persistently pursue lofty educational goals when the chances of achieving them is not optimistic, especially through emergency education programs. This study contributes to our understanding of this puzzle, theoretically and empirically. In the study, I draw from ethnographic research, including semistructured interviews and future aspiration mapping exercises with Form One students, as well as interviews with their teachers. I then present several interconnected explanations that address the research question. First, students believe that success in education is a way for them to get out of the camps. Second, they imagine that getting an overseas scholarship will resolve their difficult economic conditions and academic restrictions. Third, they believe that, by working hard to succeed and being motivated by the dream of getting an education abroad, their chances for other tertiary education will increase. In this study, I argue that the cultural logic of hoping to achieve a better future through education sustains young people’s motivation to pursue overseas scholarships, which outweighs the low odds of attaining them.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33682/7jd6-qj4x

Resource Info

Resource Type

Journal Article


Published by

Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Authored by

Hassan Aden


Levels of Learning - Tertiary Education
Research and Evidence

Geographic Focus