The Study and Teaching of Human Rights in Refugee Camps: Learning From Experience

Djemila Carron

 In March 2017, twenty students sat their human rights oral examination at the Learning Hub of the University of Geneva, located in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. The course, entitled “Introduction to Human Rights,” was led for the first time in Kakuma between September 2016 and March 2017 by InZone—an academic center of the University of Geneva, whose mission is to build higher education spaces in refugee camps.[1] InZone has been working in refugee camps for the last eight years, and in fragile contexts for over twelve years. Starting with trainings for interpreters in the field, InZone subsequently developed into a center dedicated to higher education for refugees in refugee camps in Kenya and Jordan. Each year, around four hundred refugee students are enrolled in courses in French and English on: engineering, history, ethics, medicine, public health, applied arts, and human rights. These lead to certificates and academic opportunities both at the University of Geneva and with its local academic partners.[2]

The students of human rights, who sat their exams in Kakuma during those hot and dusty days of March 2017, had passed through a whole semester of study. They first applied for the course; then they were selected to follow, each week, a two-hour online course, through the MOOC “Introduction to Human Rights” of the University of Geneva. In addition, students attended each week an onsite discussion at the InZone café—an informal learning place located in the Ethiopian community of Kakuma 1.[3] To support them in this learning process, they were also assisted onsite by a refugee facilitator as well as an e-tutor from the University of Geneva on a Whatsapp forum. This constitutes InZone’s Learning Ecosystem, a blended model of learning specifically designed for studies taking place in the environment of a refugee camp.


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Djemila Carron is a senior lecturer (MER) at InZone, where her work focuses on human rights and humanitarian law. She also is the co-founder of the Law Clinic of the University of Geneva’s Law Faculty. The holder of an LL.M. from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of Geneva in 2015, her main research areas include the classification of armed conflicts, the rights of vulnerable people and the law applicable in refugee camps.

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