The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) honored Abdullahi Mire, a journalist and former refugee, with the Nansen Award on Tuesday "for championing refugee education in Kenya."
"In recognition of his innovative campaign to champion refugee education in Kenya, Mire has been selected as the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award's 2023 Global Laureate," the UNHCR said in a statement on the reward, which is given annually to honor those who have gone above and beyond to help forcibly displaced or stateless people.
Mire founded the youth-led organization Refugee Youth Education Hub (RYEH), which supports refugee students in Kenya's Dadaab camp.
"I never thought I would achieve this milestone," he said in the statement. "I dedicate this award to every displaced child who, like me, was forced to flee their home. This is to give them hope and a reason to keep dreaming."
Mire's family settled in one of the world's largest refugee camps in Dadaab in 1991 after fleeing the civil war in Somalia.
"The first day in school was exciting," he said, recalling those days. "From the word go, I knew what I wanted. I knew this (new) page I was starting in school was something that would change my life…My journey started from there."
Upon graduating from high school, he won a competitive scholarship to study public relations at the Dadaab branch of Kenyatta University, according to the statement. However, he didn't abandon the other young refugees in the camp, who also had hopes and potential, after completing university.
Then he founded RYEH to support refugee students with books and learning materials and reported stories about his fellow refugees in the camp which were published by international media outlets.
"I became the voice of my community," he said.
According to the UNHCR's latest education report, more than half of the world's nearly 15 million school-aged refugee children remain out of formal education.
In Dadaab, over half the population of refugees and asylum-seekers are children, but only 58% attend schools in the camp due to a shortage of qualified teachers and socio-cultural barriers, including early marriage.
RYEH has supplied over 100,000 books donated by education charities and former Dadaab refugees living in the diaspora to support schools in the camp and to establish three public libraries, the statement said.
In 2020, Mire's organization won the UNHCR NGO Innovation Award for its work helping students continue learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing vital information about the virus through a weekly radio show.