FROM CONFLICT TO THE CLASSROOM – A REFUGEE’S STORY

The author Benoite Gyubahiro (right) at Bambasi refugee camp primary school with a classmate. She is the only student from DRC in her 8th Grade class, whereas the vast majority are from Sudan. © UNICEF/Ethiopia/2019/Tsegaye
The author Benoite Gyubahiro (right) at Bambasi refugee camp primary school with a classmate. She is the only student from DRC in her 8th Grade class, whereas the vast majority are from Sudan. © UNICEF/Ethiopia/2019/Tsegaye

BENOITE GYUBAHIRO RECOUNTS HER INSPIRING JOURNEY FROM THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO TO BECOME A TEACHER AND STUDENT IN ETHIOPIA’S DISPLACEMENT CAMPS

I came to Ethiopia in 2013, and lived in the Sherkole refugee camp, where I spent four years. Before Sherkole I was studying in a government school in Uganda. Now I am in Bambasi Camp [in Ethiopia], where I have been for the last two years. When I left my home country the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I was 12 years old and studying in Grade 2. We lived in a rural area close to the capital Kinshasa.

War made us leave DRC. It was a war between two tribes. When it broke out in Rwanda, some Rwandan people fled to the Congo. Many in the Congo wanted them to go back. And that’s why there is conflict there.

My parents could sense there might be a problem and decided to leave before things became bad. While the conflict was on, we were not there to see it. I was in Uganda at the time studying in a government school in Grade 4. I did not see anyone get killed because we left before the real danger.

Eventually, we had to leave Uganda as well. My parents decided that we needed to get away to the farthest place possible. They communicated with relatives in Kenya who advised us to go to Ethiopia, because it was safer there.

We traveled by bus. I took one bag with clothes only. Everything else, we left behind. We couldn’t bring anything as we didn’t have the time. I don’t even have a passport or any identification. My parents do, but I have nothing.

Both my parents are educated. Back in the DRC my father worked as a photographer for the government. He took pictures and held exhibitions. Among other things he photographed dying people. He now studies at the University in Assosa. My mother worked simple jobs with UNICEF and Save the Children.

Right now, I am a 2nd Grade teacher. I teach mathematics: addition and subtraction. But I am also a Grade 8 student. I try to manage my time between teaching and studying. Between 8 am and 12 pm, I am at school teaching 100 students. Then I come back in the afternoon to pursue my own studies. It is difficult to manage, but I try. As a teacher I make 805 birr per month.

An Ethiopian national teaches my Grade 8 class of 65 students. He teaches in English and is very helpful. He’s a good teacher, but I want to be better than him.

I don’t get to interact much with the Ethiopians — our host community — because I am always busy, usually at school. I also have chores to do: making food and collecting water. When I cook, it’s usually rice, beans and meat. Tonight, I will cook fish that I bought from the market today.

For fun, I sometimes play volleyball, which I like. I have made some friends from Sudan in the camp. We communicate in English and I help whoever is interested to learn more.

After Grade 8 I want to go to Grade 9. I will then go to the new school (constructed with funds from Education Cannot Wait), something I am looking forward to.

I received some basic training in teaching (but not a professional certificate). I want to continue teaching now but eventually, I want to become a doctor. I am not married yet and I don’t want to have kids either. Maybe in the future.

For now, I want to stay in Ethiopia as it is better here. I think it is possible to learn Amharic and settle down and live here, where there is peace.

 

Benoite Gyubahiro at Bambasi refugee camp primary school with her Sudanese classmates. Of the more than 62,000 refugees in the region, 72% are from Sudan, 26.5% are from South Sudan, and 1% are Congolese (with 0.5% from other places). © UNICEF/Ethiopia/2019/Tsegaye
Benoite Gyubahiro at Bambasi refugee camp primary school with her Sudanese classmates. Of the more than 62,000 refugees in the region, 72% are from Sudan, 26.5% are from South Sudan, and 1% are Congolese (with 0.5% from other places). © UNICEF/Ethiopia/2019/Tsegay

Benoite Gyubahiro (17) is a Grade 2 teacher and student from Democratic Republic of the Congo, currently living as a refugee in Ethiopia. As told to Amanda Westfall, Communications and Resource Mobilization Specialist at UNICEF Ethiopia. View original.

 

ENSURING EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFUGEE AND HOST COMMUNITY CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA

Pal Biel Jany, 15, grade 4, wants to be the future president of South Sudan. He goes to school in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
Pal Biel Jany, 15, grade 4, wants to be the future president of South Sudan. He goes to school in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha

Refugee primary school teacher Changkuoth Ter Wal explains the importance of investing in new schools and teacher training diploma programmes. With US$15 million from Education Cannot Wait (ECW), new schools and trained teachers are on the rise in the refugee-hosting regions of Gambella and Benishangal-Gumuz.  Story originally published  on UNICEF Ethiopia.

By Amanda Westfall

Like most children in Tierkidi Refugee Camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, 15-year-old Pal Biel Jany fled from violence in South Sudan five years ago. He left his entire immediate family behind and currently lives with his aunt in the camp.

Pal has been displaced and separated from his parents and siblings for nearly one-third of his life. For refugee children, especially those experiencing traumatic displacement processes, it is imperative that they find stability and support – and schools can play a significant role.

Pal is lucky to have Changkuoth Ter Wal as his fourth-grade teacher at Teirkidi #3 Primary School. Changkuoth was never given the opportunity to attend formal training for teaching – like most refugee teachers who hold no professional diplomas and only participate in short trainings offered at the camp. Nevertheless, he is determined to improve the conditions for the next generation.

Changkuoth, Ter, 26, is a grade 4 science teacher. He joined Tierkidi School No. 3, Refugee Camp in 2014. His first daughter, 6, goes to the same school where he teaches. Whereas his wife, 22, is in grade 10 and goes to Diaca Secondary School located in the same Refugee Camp. He is hopeful that the buildings currently being constructed will help overcome the various obstacles that the students face such as; rain, outdoor noises and heat created by the metal walls. Tierkidi School No. 3, Refugee Camp, Itang Woreda, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
Changkuoth, Ter, 26, is a grade 4 science teacher. He joined Tierkidi School No. 3, Refugee Camp in 2014. His first daughter, 6, goes to the same school where he teaches. His wife, 22, is in grade 10 and goes to Diaca Secondary School located in the same Refugee Camp. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha

“I can see how education is good for the community and the children. In South Sudan and here in the camps, there are more illiterate people than educated,” said Changkuoth.

But the situation changed last summer when he was given an opportunity of a life time. He and 343 other refugees were told they would be able to attend college and pursue teaching diplomas. Now, they can finally become professional teachers and improve the quality of education for refugee children.

In addition to investing in teachers, the refugee camps are benefitting from the construction of new schools and classrooms. Primary and secondary school access is still low (at a 75 per cent and 12.5 per cent Gross Enrollment Ratio for Gambella region) and class congestion is extremely high (the primary school student/teacher ratio is 106:1). With the expansion of learning spaces and investments in teacher training, the hope is to bring more children to school, reduce congestion, and improve the delivery of education.

The new schools are part of a US$15 million two-year investment by Education Cannot Wait, a new global fund for education in crisis hosted by UNICEF. The investment includes the construction of three new inclusive model secondary schools, 41 classrooms in eight secondary schools, 84 classrooms in four primary schools, and the provision of classroom furniture (desks, chairs, chalkboards) in Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella regions, which are host to mostly South Sudanese refugees.

But the support goes further than construction, since infrastructure alone may increase access to schools, but doesn’t guarantee quality of teaching in the schools. The investment also supports teacher training through diploma programmes (like the one Changkuoth attends) as well as providing teaching and learning materials.

Students learning in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
Students learning in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFUGEES AND HOST COMMUNITIES

Pal’s camp sits within three kilometers of the neighboring ‘host’ Ethiopian community. Like their refugee peers, the host community also struggles with poverty and limited access to quality education. The Education Cannot Wait-supported investment brings equal opportunities for education to both host and refugee children and introduces integrated services through the construction of new secondary schools where both refugee and host children can learn together in government-run schools overseen by the Ministry of Education. Key project partners include the Ministry of Education, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, UNICEF, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Niyakueka Gatluak, 20, teaches grade 1 students in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp. She teaches Nuer language (Thok Naath), spoken by Nuer people of South Sudan and people of Gambella. She has a 9 months old son. She wants him to be a doctor when he grows up. Gambella Region, UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
Niyakueka Gatluak, 20, teaches grade 1 students in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp. She teaches Nuer language (Thok Naath), spoken by Nuer people of South Sudan and people of Gambella. She has a 9 months old son. She wants him to be a doctor when he grows up. Gambella Region, UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha

MOVING FROM TEMPORARY TO STABLE

Classrooms like those currently at Tierkidi #3 were first constructed as temporary solutions when it was uncertain how long the refugees would stay in Ethiopia. the temporary low-cost structures were made of wood and metal sheets that could be destroyed by harsh weather but as the conflict continues in South Sudan, services can no longer be viewed as short-term solutions.

“The [temporary] school may fall down because of rain and wind so we are very excited with the new classrooms [permanent structures built from concrete bricks]. There will be so many advantages. When the students hit the metal sheets, it makes loud sounds and disturbs the children who are learning inside. With the new buildings this won’t happen,” said Changuoth.

Students posing for a picture for the camera outside of their classroom in Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp, Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha
The Makod Primary and Secondary School in Tierkidi Refugee Camp provides a safe and secure learning environment. Gambella Region. UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Mersha

THE IMPACT OF THE INVESTMENT

Pal’s family trusts in him to gain a good education so he can help his younger siblings one day. For this reason, his family agreed that he lives with his aunt in the Tierkidi camp since there are no educational opportunities in South Sudan where his immediate family still lives.

“I have to work hard to complete my education so I can support my two younger brothers and three younger sisters who are still in South Sudan and can’t go to school,” said Pal.

Through the investment in construction, teacher training, and provision of teaching/learning materials, Pal and an expected 12,000 other children from refugee camps and surrounding host communities will enjoy an improved quality of education.

Story by Amanda Westfall, published with express permission from the original.

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Gambella Region, Ethiopia

 

REVERSING THE CYCLE

IN ETHIOPIA PIONEERING PROGRAMME GIVES ADVANCED EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS TO TRAIN REFUGEE TEACHERS

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Poch Jackson Petov has been a refugee all his life. Energetic, determined and fearless, the 25-year-old Poch has created opportunities for himself – seemingly out of nothing. Photo © UNICEF

IN ETHIOPIA PIONEERING PROGRAMME GIVES ADVANCED EDUCATION SCHOLARSHIPS TO TRAIN REFUGEE TEACHERS

We live in a world where millions of people will live their entire lives as refugees. Living in camps, settlements and urban contexts, too often on the edge of society. These victims of conflict and crisis remain caught in a hard-to-fathom cycle of exclusion, despair and socio-economic marginalization.

For children and youth, this negative cycle is only made worse by a lack of continuous, safe and quality education, limited resources, and unqualified teachers.

Ethiopia has a long tradition of welcoming refugees. Currently it hosts Africa’s second largest refugee population and has one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Despite its generosity as a host-country, Ethiopia’s estimated 925,000 refugee population has put a strain on the country’s coping capacity to meet their needs. This is the frontlines of the refugee education crisis in Africa.

Only half of the refugee children living here have access to education. Girls are left further behind, with only 45 per cent attending school. For many of these refugee children, there are no classrooms, no books to read and few qualified teachers.

UNHCR notes that just 50 per cent of Ethiopia’s refugee schools fulfill minimum standards for safe and conducive learning environments.

But this is about to change.

The Government of Ethiopia has taken a strong stance to improve the rights and services enjoyed by refugees in the country. As part of the 2017 Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, Ethiopia has made nine pledges, including to “increase enrollment of refugee children in preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary education, without discrimination and within available resources.”

To support delivery of the response framework, and help Ethiopia achieve its goals of ending poverty and hunger, and ensuring equitable education for all by 2030 as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, Education Cannot Wait partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR and the Government of Ethiopia to create a far-reaching US$15 million intervention that has already surpassed its goal of providing over 68,000 refugee children with quality education, quality school settings and quality teachers.

Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Fleeing drought and famine in their home country, thousands of Somalis have taken up residence across the border in Dollo Ado, where a complex of camps is assisted by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Somali refugee children share a meal inside a tent in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia in 2011. Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

TEACHING THE TEACHERS

One promising achievement coming out of this initial two-year programme is an innovative initiative to provide advanced education to train teachers working in refugee education centers.

Only a minority of those who teach in refugee primary schools in the intervention area are qualified professional teachers holding teaching diplomas. Many of these teachers are refugees themselves. Providing advanced education for these teachers not only improves the quality of education in the camps, but it also provides a real chance to reverse the negative cycle that perpetuates poverty traps and limits opportunities for refugees young and old.  In all, the project targets training for 1,000 teachers and education professionals, of whom 444 will be women.

Poch Jackson Petov has been a refugee all his life. Energetic, determined and fearless, the 25-year-old Poch has created opportunities for himself – seemingly out of nothing.

Poch’s father died in South Sudan before he was born and he was separated from his mother when he was in the second grade. He fled the violence in his home country to seek refuge in Ethiopia. Against all odds, he managed to gain a primary and secondary education and learn Amharic while living in the Sherkole Refugee Camp in Ethiopia.

Community-minded and driven, Poch became a “volunteer teacher” for the camp, making around US$25 a month to teach primary school.

Sudanese refugees Anur, Sami, James and Abdalaziz © UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2018/Amanda Westfall
“I am proud of this programme. It will enable me to improve the knowledge of my community.” – James. Sudanese refugees Anur, Sami, James and Abdalaziz © UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2018/Amanda Westfall

“We had a meeting with school principals. We asked them, ‘Why can’t we get training to improve our skills?’ We are stuck in one position. Then we waited,” said Poch.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, scholarships were created for Poch and others to attend college. This is a key component of Ethiopia’s focus on inclusion and empowerment for refugees as outlined in the Comprehensive Response Framework to “increase enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education to all qualified refugees without discrimination and within the available resources.” The “full-ride” scholarships include education, room and board, health care, and transport between the refugee camps and the college.

Some 343 refugees are now enrolled in college through the scholarships. The courses are taught in English, and students can study along a variety of tracks from physical education and integrated sciences to math, social science and English.

“Finally, [the opportunity] came and we have a partner to help us continue education,” said Poch.

South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-Beles College of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Amanda Westfall
South Sudanese refugees and current college students, Poch Jackson Petov and Hamid Abdallah Hamad in front of Gilgel-Beles College of Teacher Education. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2018/Amanda Westfall

PROMISING RESULTS

The Education Cannot Wait programme in Ethiopia has already exceeded targets for the number of children reached. Thus far over 82,000 children of the targeted 68,000 have been reached. Girls are often the most vulnerable. Of the targeted 28,000 girls, now over 32,000 have been reached with formal and non-formal education initiatives. Of the 157 classrooms targeted for support with equipment, infrastructure and classroom materials, 73 have been reached thus far, while additional infrastructures are being built.

Sami Balla is another refugee who is receiving training through the programme.

“Now, we can go back with the diploma and say we are teachers and we are professionals! I now have pride to work at the school,” said Sami, who has been a refugee for seven years now.

With their diplomas, Posh, Sami and hundreds more like them will return to the refugee camps to use their new skills to improve the quality of education for their communities. With improved teaching skills, and renewed self-determination, these educators are pioneering a new path for refugees living in Ethiopia – and a bold example for the rest of the world on the value of education.

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Based on the original story by Amanda Westfall.