UGANDA: EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT MAKES AN IMPACT ON GIRLS’ EDUCATION

Rosemary fled South Sudan two years ago when she was 19 because of the conflict engulfing her home country. She left most of her family behind to find safety and security in neighboring Uganda. Today, she is a student at the Itula Secondary School in Moyo, northern Uganda, on the border with South Sudan. When I met her earlier this year, she told me “Education will provide me with a brighter future.”

Photo © JRS

Stories From The Field

By Giulia McPherson, Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Rosemary fled South Sudan two years ago when she was 19 because of the conflict engulfing her home country. She left most of her family behind to find safety and security in neighboring Uganda. Today, she is a student at the Itula Secondary School in Moyo, northern Uganda, on the border with South Sudan. When I met her earlier this year, she told me “Education will provide me with a brighter future.”

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, refugee girls are only half as likely to be enrolled in secondary school as boys. While Rosemary defies these odds, she is still facing a number of challenges. To support herself and her grandfather who is paralyzed, Rosemary makes pancakes and also uses the income she earns to pay for her own school fees. She also sleeps at a friend’s home during the week because the refugee settlement where she lives is too far from school.

Itula Secondary School was founded by the local community in 1996, with support from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), in response to the educational needs of refugees who were fleeing Sudan’s civil war. The local government assumed responsibility for the school in 2005 as many refugees began to return home once the conflict subsided. In 2017, a new wave of refugees from South Sudan began to arrive and the need for Itula to serve the local refugee population became ever more critical.

Today, the school has 1,420 students – 1,179 of whom are refugees from South Sudan. Of these students, 42 percent are girls. What makes Itula special is the support it has received from the local community, dedicated teachers and administrators, and initiatives like Education Cannot Wait (ECW) that have invested in rehabilitating the school to accommodate the needs of students.

Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. To date, ECW has reached 1.3 million children and youth in its first two years of operations and is aiming to mobilize $1.8 billion in funding for education in crisis settings by 2021 to reach approximately 9 million children annually.

In 2018, JRS implemented a grant from Education Cannot Wait to build new classrooms, dormitories for girls, accommodations for staff, gender-segregated latrines, and an incinerator for sanitary products. Some of these improvements help to address specific challenges faced by girls, which JRS outlined in a recent report – Her Future: Challenges & Recommendations to Increase Education for Refugee Girls. These challenges include long distances to reach the closest school, and related safety concerns, and a lack of sanitary materials and sanitation facilities.

Before the intervention. Photo © JRS

These improvements have had a tremendous impact on improving the quality of life for Itula’s students, teachers, and larger community. Yet, some students spoke to me about areas where they hope for continued change.

Evaline, a 17-year-old student at Itula Secondary School, told me, “We need to be able to talk, share our problems with others, this is how we will find courage.” Establishing social clubs and mentoring opportunities for girls to share, discuss, and advocate on behalf of their needs is another important way to invest in a quality education for refugee girls. Often times, refugee girls experience some level of trauma or violence due to their displacement. Promoting a safe and protective learning environment for girls is critical in ensuring their success in school.

After the intervention. Photo © JRS

Civil society organizations – including JRS – have joined forces to voice our support for Education Cannot Wait as it works towards its goal of supporting quality education for close to 9 million children annually in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Only by bringing together international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, can we continue to address the needs of students like Rosemary and Evaline, and the millions of other young people affected by conflict and violence.

This story was originally published by Giulia McPherson at Global Campaign for Education US

Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.

CHILDREN OF HOPE

HALF A MILLION REFUGEE AND HOST-COMMUNITY CHILDREN WILL BENEFIT FROM UGANDA’S EDUCATION RESPONSE FOR REFUGEES.

UNHCR estimates that 4 million refugees worldwide (aged 5 to 17) are not enrolled in school, with 61 per cent attendance in elementary schools and 23 per cent in secondary schools. The Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration provide the substantial political backing to enhance educational opportunities and support for refugee children and youth fleeing war, persecution and disasters. Some host countries, such as Uganda, are already making great strides in ensuring quality and inclusive education for refugees. Photo © World Vision
UNHCR estimates that 4 million refugees worldwide (aged 5 to 17) are not enrolled in school, with 61 per cent attendance in elementary schools and 23 per cent in secondary schools. The Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration provide the substantial political backing to enhance educational opportunities and support for refugee children and youth fleeing war, persecution and disasters. Some host countries, such as Uganda, are already making great strides in ensuring quality and inclusive education for refugees. Photo Children of Hope in the Imvepi refugee settlement © Jesuit Refugee Service.

HALF A MILLION REFUGEE AND HOST-COMMUNITY CHILDREN WILL BENEFIT FROM UGANDA’S EDUCATION RESPONSE FOR REFUGEES.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT STEPS UP EFFORTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN AT RISK.

Uganda has received more than a million refugees from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last two years. War, conflict and drought are pushing families and unaccompanied children to flee neighboring countries. Girls and boys are being pushed to the edge. And their future is at risk.

The Government of Uganda, backed by a broad international coalition including Education Cannot Wait, is stepping up to resolve this crisis, building from immediate first-emergency responses to an innovative multi-year response plan to deliver sustainable results across the scope of humanitarian and development aid efforts.

The progress in Uganda sets an example on how host countries with the support of international aid stakeholders can respond to such refugee crisis at a time when the need for emergency education response worldwide is growing. According to UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people hit a record of 68.5 million in 2017. This means that one person is displaced every two seconds. Of the 19.9 million refugees currently under the protection of the UNHCR, more than half are under the age of 18.

In all some 4 million refugee children are not enrolled in school. That’s about the total populations of New Zealand or Croatia.

Numeracy has improved thanks to the programming. Photo ©Jesuit Refugee Service

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK IN UGANDA

Huge steps have already been taken to create better educational environments for girls, boys, unaccompanied minors and adolescents arriving from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Somalia, among other places.

According to UNHCR, approximately 265,000 school-aged refugee children were enrolled in primary education in Uganda as of the end of 2017.

To reach all the refugee children living in the country, Education Cannot Wait facilitated the development of a 3.5-year Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, contributing US$11 million in seed funding to support the launch of the plan. The comprehensive plan looks to raise a total of US$389 million in total contributions to reach more than 560,000 refugee and host community children and youth. Girls and children with disabilities will be especially targeted in the response.

 Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service
Juma Mawa is proud to be attending class. Photo © World Vision

PUTTING LEARNERS FIRST

Young children and girls are some of the most vulnerable to migration. Not only does being a refugee take its toll on young bodies, it can also be extremely detrimental for young developing minds, and future educational outcomes.

Thanks to the support delivered in 2017-2018 by a coalition of aid actors including World Vision and UNICEF, with funding from Education Cannot Wait’s initial first emergency response, five-year-old Juma Mawa now attends school at the Hope for the Children Early Childhood Development Center in the Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda’s Arua District.

“In South Sudan, I was not going to school but when we came here, the school was near and my father brought me here and I joined top class,” said Juma.

Like Juma, thousands of children have been reached with early childhood development program activities, psycho-social support and conducive play environments that are vital for the well-being of children and to help them overcome the trauma of their migration.

“There’s great improvement in children’s ability to identify letters, numbers and write. This has shown great improvement in their numeracy and literacy skills. Through the construction of permanent classrooms, Education Cannot Wait has boosted the ability of the caregivers to adequately plan and deliver their lessons… without having to worry about rain or the sun,” said Lucy Evelyn Atim, the World Vision child protection coordinator in Imvepi refugee settlement.

Around 5,000 children – half of whom are girls – have been enrolled in six Hope for the Children Schools. Two schools in the Odupi host community have also received support.

Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service
Teachers prepare lesson plans in the new building constructed with ECW funds. Photo © Jesuit Refugee Service

PUTTING GIRLS FIRST

Kojo Nancy is a 15-year-old refugee from South Sudan attending school at the Itula Secondary School.

“I first jointed Itula secondary school in February 2018. But there were a lot of challenges. Girls were sleeping in the classrooms, which led to a shortage of classrooms for learning. Girls were bathing in one shelter,” said Kojo Nancy.

With funding from Education Cannot Wait and support from Jesuit Refugee Service, Kojo Nancy and other girls like her now have a two-room dormitory (reserved just for girls), there are separate bathing facilities, a four-room classroom, incinerator and teacher’s quarters. Electricity comes from a solar panel, ensuring the school isn’t just safe for girls, but it’s also green and they can have light to study by.

“All these things they have done will lead to a great improvement in our health and performance. Not only for girls, but for the entire school,” said Kojo Nancy.

VIDEOS

Video features images from UN Photographers and Jesuit Refugee Service.

Video courtesy Jesuit Refugee Service. Jasmine Poni is a refugee from South Sudan. She is finding new chances for safe, reliable education thanks to support from an Education Cannot Wait-financed  project implemented by Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda. With the construction of classrooms and a dormitory, girls and adolescent girls living here have a new safe space to learn, play and grow.

IN THEIR WORDS