Education Cannot Wait Interviews UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad Violet Kenyana Kakyomya
Since 2019, Violet Kenyana Kakyomya has served as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Chad. Ms. Kakyomya has more than 20 years of experience with the United Nations and civil society.
She has also served as the UN Resident Coordinator in Madagascar. Before assuming her posting in Chad, Ms. Kakyomya served as United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Malawi and in Guinea Bissau (2012-2016). Prior to that, she held several leadership positions at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – including as Deputy Resident Representative in Cameroon (2010-2012), as Programme Advisor at the UNDP Regional Office (2008-2010), in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Deputy Resident Representative (2004-2008) and as Assistant Resident Representative in Mozambique (2001-2004).
Before joining the United Nations, she worked her home country of Uganda with Water Aid and with the Uganda Community Based Association for Child Welfare. She holds a diploma in organizational leadership from Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, a Master’s Degree from the University of London, London School of Economics, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree from Makerere University in Uganda.
ECW: An estimated 100,000 new refugees have arrived in Chad since mid-April due to escalating conflict in Sudan; the vast majority are children. Why is it crucial to immediately provide access to protective learning environments for these crisis-affected refugee children?
Violet Kenyana Kakyomya: Chad has been very generous in welcoming all people seeking protection and safety from the conflict in Sudan. As of now, over 200,000 people, including refugees and Chadian returnees, have crossed the border into the eastern Chadian provinces of Ouaddai, Sila and Wadi-Fira. Ninety percent of the refugees and returnees are women and children, more specifically, a big percentage are children and teenagers, who were forced to drop out of school due to the violence in Darfur.
Their most immediate and critical needs are basic assistance such as food, drinking water, sanitation, health care, education and shelter. The refugees have been exposed to trauma due to the violence they witnessed and experienced, which, for children, can have short- and long-term negative effects on their physical, mental, cognitive and emotional development.
In this context, access to education is a crucial protection measure. For displaced children, education is not only an opportunity to learn, but it also provides children with lifesaving food, hygiene, water and health care. Furthermore, accessing education also offers psychosocial support, providing children who are traumatized by war with structure and stability. Without the protective environment of education, these children are at increased risk of forced recruitment, child labor, sexual exploitation and child marriage, among others.
Humanitarian actors in Chad are working hard, in close collaboration with the government, to provide all the necessary support to meet the multiple and growing humanitarian needs. UNHCR, UNICEF and their partners are doing their utmost to create an environment that will allow children to thrive, notably, by building child-friendly spaces and classrooms so that their education can resume as soon as possible. Funding for education is always a challenge in humanitarian responses, that is why initiatives like Education Cannot Wait are so important.
ECW: ECW has invested over US$41 million in Chad since 2017, working in close collaboration with the Government, UN Agencies, and local and international Civil Society Organizations to reach the most vulnerable, with a focus on: girls; refugees, internally displaced and host community children; children with disabilities. What support is needed from donors to leave no child behind?
Violet Kenyana Kakyomya: Leaving no child behind means ensuring all children have access to inclusive and equitable education that will enable them to achieve their full potential. Donors should work with the Chadian government and other key stakeholders to support education policies, sector plans and budgets that are inclusive and sensitive to gender and disability, to ensure that no child is left behind.
Globally, education in emergencies only receives 3% of the funds needed. In Chad, this is no different; the Education Cluster has only received 10% of its required funds for 2023. Chad’s government has a very progressive policy on refugee inclusion within the national education system, however, the challenge remains in financing these initiatives to ensure all children in the country have equitable access to quality education. In this context, the contributions of partners such ECW are imperative to foster and strengthen educational systems.
Marked by limited access to schooling, both at the preschool and primary level, nearly 78% of the population aged 15 and over in Chad is not enrolled in school. The situation is even more alarming in areas where populations are displaced, where the lack of qualified teachers and the lack of school infrastructure force many children to interrupt their schooling. Donor support is needed to improve the quality of education and educational governance for crisis-affected girls and boys.
In addition, it is also imperative that donors support all levels of education. Currently, most education funding goes to primary education. For instance, early childhood development is a period of critical development and has an immense impact on unlocking a child’s future. For example, in 2022, the net enrolment rate in primary education was just 47% for refugees, and significantly lower in pre-primary (12%) and secondary (11%) education. I would like to highlight the importance of investing in all levels, including early childhood care and secondary education.
ECW: Before this new crisis, Chad hosted Africa’s 4th largest refugee population. The Government’s inclusive policy allows refugee children into the national education system, with a focus on working with local partners, per the Grand Bargain Agreement localization agenda. How can donors and the international community support Chad’s progressive approach on refugee inclusion?
Violet Kenyana Kakyomya: Indeed, Chad’s approach of refugee inclusion in education is an example for the region and beyond. The first step in taking forward the Grand Bargain’s commitment on localization is recognizing the key role that the government has in providing leadership and guidance on education policies and programming. In addition to the government, it is also important to ensure the full engagement of different local organizations in the humanitarian architecture. This means actively engaging local organizations in coordination, such as the Education Cluster and the refugee education sector.
The main challenge is that these organizations lack information about funding opportunities and lack of knowledge of the humanitarian architecture. In Chad, the international partners have supported the creation of the National NGO Forum to advance localization in-country. This forum is a platform that will allow local organizations to be represented on the Humanitarian Country Team and offer capacity building opportunities and enhance information sharing. Donors can support this progressive approach by providing sustainable and flexible backing to strengthen the forum, in addition to having funding mechanisms that are accessible to these organizations directly funding to build the capacity of education stakeholders.
ECW: In addition to multiple refugee crises due to conflicts in neighboring countries, Chad is also impacted by recurring climate-induced disasters – floods and droughts – as well as significant internal displacement. What key roles can education play to address these protracted crises, including climate crises?
Violet Kenyana Kakyomya: Indeed, Chad is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. For example, UNICEF's 2021 Climate Risk Index for Children report puts Chad in second place among countries where children are most affected by the impacts of climate change. Consultations with the government, civil society, the private sector, as well as development partners have identified climate change resilience and adaptation as priority areas, in line with Chad's National Climate Change Adaptation Plan.
Education is pivotal to promote climate action. It can be a strong tool to educate, empower and engage people on climate adaptation. Education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behavior, help them to make informed decisions and teach climate adaptation strategies. Education empowers all people, but especially motivates the young to take action.
In countries with high vulnerability to climate change, education and climate action are intrinsic to each other. Chad’s national authorities are working to integrate the issue of climate change into national curricula, with the support of the United Nations System.
Regarding education and climate change, it is also important to highlight the negative effects of climate change on education outcomes. In Chad, during the 2022 floods, school infrastructures were damaged or completely destroyed in several provinces. A number of those infrastructures that remained were used as temporary shelters for displaced families, therefore interfering with the schedule at the start of the school year. Research by the World Bank shows evidence of the higher temperatures leading to increasing absenteeism and the changing of seasons causing children to leave school to work in agricultural fields in different seasons.
In countries with high vulnerability to climate change, such as Chad, education and climate action are intrinsic to each other. Schools and learning centers can act as enablers for both climate mitigation and climate adaptation. In turn, climate action is also important to mitigate the impact of climate change on school infrastructure and the population at large.
ECW: ECW funding in Chad supports both rapid responses to new or escalating emergencies (FER) and a multi-year resilience programme (MYRP) that ensures continuity and sustainability to achieve quality learning outcomes. How is this dual approach helping bridge the ‘triple nexus’ across humanitarian, development and peace efforts?
Violet Kenyana Kakyomya: ECW’s dual approach is a key enabler of the “triple nexus” cohesion in education in Chad. The funds support activities with development impact, such as building classrooms, training teachers and subsidizing their salaries, and promoting girls’ learning in regions hosting significant numbers of refugees and returnees. These initiatives, which also take place in refugee and returnee hosting areas, also contribute to social cohesion between host and displaced communities. The multi-year resilience programme provides predictable funding and allows for long-term planning and sustainability of activities. The rapid response funding allows for the education sector to be active from the very early stages of an emergency. Its impact was clearly seen in 2020 for COVID-19, in 2021 for the Central African refugee influx, in 2022 for the Cameroonian influx, and now 2023 for the Sudanese influx.
Another added value of these grants in bridging the triple nexus is that ECW supports not only traditional educational programmes, but rather enables a protective environment that addresses children and their communities’ needs with a multisectoral approach – including protection, mental health and psychosocial support, and gender-based violence risk mitigation, among others. I encourage more donors to follow suit in having requirements of inclusion of children with disabilities and girls, and supporting education initiatives that use a multi-sectoral approach that strengthens other services for children and their communities.