Refugee settlement becomes classroom for Penn State student

Jack Small
November 14, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dadaab, Kenya is the largest refugee settlement in the world. Composed of five different camps, the bulk of the settlement’s population is Somalians who are escaping civil war and extreme drought in their homes.

Ally Krupar, a College of Education graduate student pursuing a dual-title doctorate in adult education and comparative international education, spent her summer among the 350,000 refugees.

“My research focuses on low-resource and conflict-affected locations, specifically how people from these areas are able to learn new skills when groups come in to teach them,” Krupar said. “Dadaab was a great place to observe nongovernmental organizational (NGO) programming for adult learners, particularly women, given the fragile position of the refugees.”

Dadaab has been subject to attacks from various organizations since its inception more than 20 years ago. Grenade attacks, roadside bombings and kidnappings of NGO workers and volunteers have all happened in recent history.

“No one takes risks if they don’t have to,” Krupar said. “Whenever we went into the heart of the settlement, we traveled in caravans of white SUVs and were escorted by armed guards.”

Krupar learned to take her safety seriously while researching in the field with only a driver for company.

“The driver told me not to trust anyone, due to the history of attack in the camps,” she said. “Then he turned to me and in all seriousness said, ‘Not even me.’ He was trustworthy, but he taught me an important lesson, I never went into the field alone again.”

Further security measures were taken for conducting field research.

“Whenever we set up to do research, the refugees had to come to us,” Krupar said.

Krupar also had some difficulty adjusting to the conditions of Dadaab.

“We had electricity sporadically, depending on the state of the generator,” she said. “The most difficult part, though, was the limited freedom of movement. I could never get up and take a walk, I was trapped in our compound.”

Despite the difficulties, Krupar said her time in Dadaab was well spent.

“I learned about my work, but more importantly about the situation in Dadaab,” she said. “Being exposed to the conditions these people live in was eye-opening.”

Krupar is planning on returning to Dadaab in June to continue her research.

  • Ally Krupar

    Ally Krupar

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 17, 2014