Read caption Photo: Tinbit Amare/NRC

Teaching science and hope in an Ethiopian refugee camp

Tinbit Amare|Published 16. Jan 2019
GAMBELLA, ETHIOPIA: In a refugee camp hosting more than 85,000 refugees, a young mother of two have paved her way as one of the most popular teachers in the camp.

It’s early morning and students are lining up outside the school, eager to have their homework checked.

"Excellent work, students!" Nyanchew Chuol says loudly. As she is going through every single exercise book, the teacher is generous with her encouraging comments.

Read caption Nyanchew checking her students’ homework, Nguegnyiel camp, Gambella. Photo: Tinbit Amare/NRC

Nguegnyiel camp is situated in Ethiopia’s western Gambella region, sharing border with war-torn South Sudan. The camp, which opened in October 2016 after the renewed violence in South Sudan, hosts more than 85,000 refugees. With funding from ECHO, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) started an education programme in the camp two years ago. Two school compounds were built and a total of 1,082 pupils are attending accelerated education classes and vocational training.

A 22-year-old mother of two girls, Nyanchew is one of 13 teachers in the school and teaches environmental science to level 1 students in the accelerated education programme. She came to the camp just two years ago, fleeing the war in South Sudan. She used to live in Juba, the capital of her home country, but when the war erupted five years ago, she fled, first inside her own country. But the war followed her, and after a while she had no choice but to cross into Ethiopia.

A good ranking student

When Nyanchew first arrived in the camp, she had nothing to do and she was happy to hear about the school. "Before I came here, I used to teach small children in South Sudan. I worked for Save the Children," she says.

Read caption Photo: Tinbit Amare/NRC

She loves teaching. "When I was a student, I got very good grades." Social studies and science used to be her favourite subjects.

She’s still looking for an opportunity to continue her secondary education, so that she can become a qualified teacher.

Unfinished education

Because of the war, Nyanchew was forced to drop out of school after completing her primary education.

"I got married and gave birth when I was in seventh grade. But that didn’t stop me from going back to school and complete my primary education. Then the war broke out."

Read caption Nyanchew checking her students’ homework, Nguegnyiel camp, Gambella. Photo: Tinbit Amare/NRC

She says she’ll never forget the violence she witnessed in South Sudan. Her husband, a soldier, is still there, fighting. "I haven’t seen him for the past two years."

After work every day, Nyanchew helps her daughters with their homework. "My children are all I have, and I want them to succeed in their education."

Nyanchew dreams about peace in her country so that she, too, can continue her education.