Children and Youths’ Belonging in Protracted Displacement: A Mixed-Methods Study from Kakuma Refugee Camp


  • Jihae Cha Graduate School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA
  • Daniel Shephard University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Minkyung Choi Department of Teaching and Learning, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA
  • Ahrum Jeon Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA



belonging, pragmatics of belonging, home, refugee youth, Kakuma Refugee Camp


Millions of children and youth live in forced displacement. We conducted a mixed-methods study among 729 primary students in Kakuma Refugee Camp to examine the roles of knowledge, experience (direct or indirect), language, and schooling in students’ sense of belonging to their home country and intention to return. We found sense of belonging is associated with knowledge of one’s country and its traditions, fluency in one’s home language, and schooling opportunities. However, these same factors are negatively associated with their intent to repatriate in the near future. The relationship between formal and informal learning appears to encourage a pragmatic sense of belonging to Kenya for the immediate future while any sense of belonging and hope for return to their home countries are projected onto an imagined future.


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Author Biographies

Jihae Cha, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA

Jihae Cha is an Assistant Professor of International Education and International Affairs at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She can be reached at

Daniel Shephard, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland

Daniel Shephard is a Lecturer in Comparative Education and Education Policy at the University of Edinburgh. He can be reached at

Minkyung Choi, Department of Teaching and Learning, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA

Minkyung Choi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Montclair State University’s College for Education and Engaged Learning. She can be reached at

Ahrum Jeon, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA

Ahrum Jeon is an Adjunct Professor at Boston College. She can be reached at


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How to Cite

Cha, J., Shephard, D., Choi, M., & Jeon, A. (2024). Children and Youths’ Belonging in Protracted Displacement: A Mixed-Methods Study from Kakuma Refugee Camp. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 40(1), 1–18.

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