“We decided to flee Burundi because there was war. I miss the school where I was studying in Burundi. I had enough materials: shoes and clothes, pens, eraser and a school bag,” says ten-year-old Nyongere at Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. But this year he has no school to attend.
With war and drought hitting several East African countries, millions of children like Nyongere who fled their homes are crammed into camps with few schools and little chance for an education.
“The lack of education for displaced children could create a lost generation,” says Gabriella Waaijman, Regional Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Tomorrow is International Literacy Day, and children have the right to go to school. Education can save children’s lives during emergencies. Schools provide children a secure location, they build protective social structures, they teach essential knowledge for survival, and they safeguard the futures of children and communities.”
Many children remain stuck in refugee camps for years, wishing that they could go to school. In the Kigoma district camps in Tanzania, some classes are held under trees, and the number of students in each class can be as high as 200. About half of 318,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees in Tanzania living in refugee camps are children. Only 65 per cent of primary, and three percent of secondary students are in school.
In South Sudan, 2.2 million children are out of school due to conflict in several regions. The country has the highest proportion of children out of school globally, with over 70 per cent of children not getting an education. Over one third of all schools have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
In Somalia, over two decades of conflict meant that access to basic education was among the world’s lowest. This was worsened by the current drought which caused 766,000 people to flee their homes, imperilling the little but hard-won progress in education. Nearly two million children of school age are not in school, and 30 per cent of children complete four years of schooling without learning basic elementary skills.
In Uganda, there are now over one million refugees from South Sudan, and more than half are children. Forty per cent of children between six and 13 years old are not enrolled in primary school; and 80 per cent of secondary school-aged young people are not enrolled in secondary education. Each teacher has up to 128 children in their class.
In Kenya, 588,000 school aged children need emergency education assistance due to the drought crisis. Over 1,200 schools do not have access to safe drinking water. Only seven percent of funding needs for emergency education have been met.
With the East African drought crisis, education receives far less funding than other emergency programmes. Out of the USD 970 million in funding committed to the drought crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, only USD 16.5 million is for education projects, only 1.7 per cent of total funds. Education funding for other crises in the region is also far below the need. The international aid community agreed in 2015 that four per cent of humanitarian aid should go to education, but that target has not been reached for any country in the region. Among areas of humanitarian need, education is funded the least. This leaves a huge funding shortfall.
Education is lifesaving for displaced children. School attendance can keep children from joining armed groups. Lifesaving awareness on landmines and unexploded bombs can be taught in school. Without hygiene knowledge that children can learn in school, some refugee children can die of disease. Schools for refugees often provide lunches, reducing child malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.
“Everyone agrees on the importance of education, especially for children affected by conflict. Therefore, it is incomprehensible and unjustifiable that so little funding is provided for education for children in emergencies,” said Waaijman.
With more children fleeing their homes and with little humanitarian funding for schools, East Africa faces an education crisis. NRC calls on the international community and donors to live up to commitments they made previously, asking them to ensure that education plays its role in alleviating humanitarian crises. More funding should be committed for the education response for the multiple crises in East Africa.
- Kenya: The NRC education programme is supporting displaced vulnerable children and youth to access basic education and skills development, mainly targeting out-of-school children and unemployed youth. NRC operates six accelerated education programme centres that provide an alternative for learners unable to attend school. A youth programme that provides a combination of reading, writing, math and vocational skills operates in two refugee camps. NRC also supports school infrastructure development; supplies learning and teaching materials; and trains teachers and school management.
- South Sudan: NRC’s education programmes work in first phase emergency response, recovery and development in hard to reach locations in five of the former states. We have a mobile rapid response team for education in emergencies able to respond throughout the country. We also support education in a Protection of Civilians site, and our programmes in host community areas include supporting primary schools with infrastructure rehabilitation and teacher training. We operate accelerated learning programmes and vocational skills trainings. NRC has also scaled up our school feeding programme, implemented in three former states.
- Somalia: NRC uses multiple methods to provide quality education and training for out-of-school children and youth. These include formal education, alternative basic education, education in emergencies, and youth programmes. Activities include improving school infrastructure, providing teaching materials and learning resources, and school meals. NRC provides cash grants to select families to enable them to send their children to school – and keep them there.
- Tanzania: NRC’s education programmes include constructing schools, training refugee teachers, and building a youth centre for vocational skills training. The centre doubles as a community centre, giving youth the opportunity to learn communications and computer skills that they can use to earn a living.
- Uganda – NRC provides education programmes for South Sudanese refugees in the north of the country. It has built and runs seven accelerated education centres for children who can’t go to primary schools because they are too old or lack the money for books or uniforms. The centres are established next to existing primary schools so that they can still be used if and when the refugees return to their home country. It runs three vocational skills training centres for youth, and supports them to set up their own businesses.
- Donors for NRC’s education programmes in the above mentioned countries this year include the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA), Norwegian Telethon, Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund SA Round 1 and 2, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF.
Due to the fast changing displacement situation from drought and conflicts in the region, complete statistics on education for displaced children are not currently available for all locations in East Africa.
- NRC has spokespersons in Nairobi available for interviews.
- Video footage of Tanzania refugee camp education is available free to use online.
For interviews or for more information, please contact:
Geno Teofilo, media and communications adviser
Phone number: +254 702 910 077