Sustainable Development Goals


Providing art workshops for schoolchildren in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

A UCL artist has set up a programme of practical art workshops for schoolchildren in a Kenyan refugee camp – and is continuing to run it using mobile phones throughout the global pandemic.

SDG Case study G4.5 Milroy photo

7 October 2020

In April 2019, Professor Lisa Milroy led a three-day workshop for 35 students from Angelina Jolie Primary School, Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls and Our Lady’s Girl Secondary School in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. The students worked together to create “Group Portrait”, a marvelous collaborative painting.

Kakuma Refugee Camp, located in north-west Kenya, is home to more than 190,000 refugees of 21 different nationalities. There are over 108,000 children living in the camp, including more than 90,000 primary and secondary school-aged children. There are 26 primary schools and seven secondary schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp.  

Since 2015, Professor Lisa Milroy (UCL Slade School of Fine Art) has been delivering ‘Hands On Art Workshops’ for schoolchildren though interactive video conference.  

“The workshops are designed to open up and facilitate dialogue and creative exchange between artists and students in Kakuma Refugee Camp,” Professor Milroy explains. “Students are encouraged to develop their imaginative thinking and creative skills through the workshops, engaging with drawing, painting, performance, object-making, writing and aspects of functional design.” 

The closure of schools in Kakuma Refugee Camp during the Covid-19 pandemic brought Professor Milroy’s art workshop sessions using video conferencing to a halt. However, liaising with colleagues in Kakuma Refugee Camp, she was able to connect with some of the students and deliver the workshops using mobile phones. 

“The practical art workshops are designed to open up and facilitate dialogue and creative exchange between artists and students in Kakuma Refugee Camp.” 

During this time, Professor Milroy has been sending art workshop guidelines to Madam Sabella Muthoni, Headmistress at Angelina Jolie Primary School, using WhatsApp, which Madam Muthoni then relays to students through mobile phone messaging. Madam Muthoni sends photos of the students’ artwork back to Professor Milroy for feedback and support.  

Working with Joy Maraka, Education Assistant UNHCR Kakuma, they also used mobile phones to organise a submission of artwork from six students and a professional artist in the camp to the UNHCR's global ‘Youth with Refugees’ Art Contest. 

Each year, Professor Milroy travels to the camp to meet with students, teachers and artists, working with UNHCR Kakuma. Due to COVID-19, her planned mission visit in April 2020, supported by a grant from the UCL Global Engagement Fund, was postponed until 2021. 

She also recently raised funds generated through her professional practice for a second Hands On Art Workshops Scholarship, the first of which she set up in 2019. The scholarship will cover the full cost of four years of secondary school tuition for a ‘Hands On’ student.  

A selection of drawings from students from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya from Hands on Art workshop, delivered through mobile phone exchange April - May 2020