Photo: Klaus Bo / Danish Refugee Council

“Education is my light” – DRC’s Numeracy and Literacy Assistance is Changing Refugee Lives

DRC’s classes are changing the life for refugees in the Ali Addeh camp. Education and assistance is helping refugees to start their own businesses and they dream big.


At 52 years of age, Kabila Doualeh Amareh is doing remarkably well studying French, Mathematics and English. She is originally from Hargeisa in Somaliland but is currently a refugee living in Ali Addeh refugee camp in Djibouti. She fled from her hometown in Hargeisa in 1991 after clan conflicts intensified and she feared for her safety. She now lives alone with her 18-years-old daughter in their tattered shelter, which is made of sticks and plastic sheets as walls.

“Bonjour! Bienvenue,” says a broadly-smiling Kabila as she welcomes us to her small house and invites us to sit on a mat.

The Danish Refugee Council is assisting refugees like Kabila by providing them with literacy and numeracy classes as part of its livelihoods programme in the refugee camp. The literacy and numeracy classes are assisting the refugees to acquire language skills such as French and English as well as learning the basics of accounting to help them starting their businesses and day-to-day life.

“Since I started learning maths, my life has become much better. I am learning how to keep record of my business. Now I can count and give proper change to customers,” says a beamingly happy Kabila. She runs a small candy shop inside her shelter and she has a sewing machine, so she can tailor clothes, thus earning a living for herself and her daughter.

Youths are missing the prospects of a better life

Refugee life in the camp is difficult as Kabila explains. Her daughter has just finished grade 8 but she has no prospects of continuing with her education since there is no high school in the camp.

“I am very worried for my daughter,” says Kabila as she thoughtfully gazes away at a corner of her house.

“I am afraid that my daughter is thinking of running away,” she pauses.

Like many other young people in the camp, Kabila’s daughter has nothing better to do than hang around after grade 8. There are no prospects of further education or getting meaningful employment. Many of them are considering leaving on the dangerous journey of being a migrant.

 “I know my daughter is not happy. I would want her to repeat grade 8 so that she doesn’t just stay at home, but I am afraid that she is planning to leave soon,” says Kabila.

Hoping to grow the business

The 52-years-old widow sees her pursuit of education as their only way to get out of poverty and the hard life of being a refugee.

“I am very thankful to DRC for this opportunity to learn. Education is my light. Today I have learned many new things that I didn’t know before. If a customer takes credit from my business, I now know how to record that as a debt,” says Kabila.

She hopes that she can continue to learn and acquire as much knowledge as possible in order to grow her tailoring business enabling her to buy more fabric and design dresses that will sell in and out of the camp.

The Danish Refugee Council has been able to provide 117 refugees with the numeracy and literacy classes in Ali Addeh refugee camp. In addition, DRC is assisting vulnerable refugees with vocational skills training and business start-up kits to enable them to start their own businesses so they can be self-reliant.