Fourteen-year-old Congolese student, Joceline, carries her French and Kirundi language books to class at Hope Secondary School in Nyarugusu refugee camp, Tanzania ; Nyarugusu refugee camp, created in 1996 and situated in Tanzania’s western province of Kigoma, hosts around 150,000 refugees. Originally accommodating Congolese refugees fleeing civil war, the camp now also hosts some 65,000 Burundians who have fled political unrest. A massive funding shortfall means that, in western Tanzania’s refugee camps – including nearby Nduta and Mtendeli – UNHCR has not been able to construct the required number of classrooms at the camps’ schools. With just 193 classrooms for 9,650 children, over 70 per cent of students study outdoors. Around 625 additional classrooms are needed, at a cost of $12,000 each. Additional costs for teacher salaries and exams, and desperately needed funding for shelter and other basic needs mean living conditions are tough. Funding for Congolese and Burundian refugees are raised separately. UNHCR’s appeal for $217 million to assist Burundian refugees in Tanzania is grossly underfunded, with just 7 per cent of funding received (as of November 2017.)

Enabling Change through Education for Refugee Girls in Tanzania

Fourteen-year-old Congolese student, Joceline, carries her French and Kirundi language books to class at Hope Secondary School in Nyarugusu refugee camp, Tanzania

In the Nduta refugee camp in north-west Tanzania, 93% of secondary school-aged girls are out of school

Over the last two years, close to 400,000 Burundian refugees have fled their country due to political unrest and extreme food insecurity, seeking asylum in the north-west of Tanzania. (UNHCR) This sudden and massive influx of refugees has made it very difficult for UNHCR and other civil society organizations to meet the basic needs of the population, including the provision of education services.

As a result, the enrollment of girls and young women in school is dangerously low. In the Nduta Refugee Camp, only 7% of girls of secondary school age were enrolled in secondary school in 2016. The longer these girls and young women remain out of school, the more likely it is that they will miss out on critical opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

Protracted displacement crises affect children and youth’s access to education

As protracted displacement crises are increasingly becoming the norm, it is more important than ever to bridge the gap between life-saving humanitarian assistance and life-changing sustainable development. The average length of major refugee and displacement crises has increased from 9 years in 1993 to 26 years at the end of 2015 (UNHCR). Education can bridge that gap, offering displaced youth and their families with hope for a brighter future.

Many children are now born and raised in refugee camps, but only 61% of them attend primary school, compared with 91% globally. Attendance continues to drop as refugee children get older: only 23% of refugees are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 84% globally.

All refugee children face barriers to accessing education. These include overcrowded classrooms, a shortage of skilled teachers, a lack materials for teaching and learning, gaps in skills or knowledge, and discrimination due to their refugee status.

The world is at risk of losing the potential of millions of refugee youth, particularly girls

The challenges to education are even greater for refugee girls. They are often subject to sexual and gender-based violence, including early and forced marriage and early pregnancy. In addition, girls often shoulder an unfair burden of household responsibilities, which can be worsened by displacement as families become separated. Due to this double discrimination, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out-of-school in crises.

The world is at risk of losing the potential of millions of refugee girls, who may be forced to leave school without ever acquiring foundational literacy and numeracy skills. Actions must be taken now to improve their access to quality education, as it is the best tool that girls can have to create a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Research shows that education reduces the likelihood of forced marriage, early pregnancy and human trafficking, all of which are risks in refugee contexts.

In refugee contexts, girls’ education also lays the groundwork for a peaceful and prosperous future. When women are included in peace processes, there is a 35 percent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years. Education is key to preparing all young refugees to engage in the peacebuilding process, once they are able to return to their country of origin.

WUSC is implementing innovative solutions to support more refugee girls access education in Tanzania

WUSC has been supporting girls’ education for more than twenty years and refugees’ education for the past decade. Building on our successes in Kenyan refugee camps, where our remedial education classes are now benefitting more than 7,500 refugee girls, WUSC has received funding to pilot  this model, adapted to the Tanzanian context, where we have been working since 2015.

Through the Encouraging Access to Education and Better Learning Environments (ENABLE) project, we will be working in the Nduta Refugee Camp to directly support 350 marginalized and vulnerable young mothers and girls to reconnect with formal education. We will implement an innovative remedial education model that combines academic support with peer support and life skills in girls-only safe spaces. We will help them improve their literacy, numeracy, and life skills, while building their self-confidence to achieve their aspirations and advocate for their rights.

ENABLE is a one year initiative (January 2019 – December 2019), implemented in partnership with the Tanzania Branch of Caritas Kigoma, and funded by the 60 million girls Foundation.

As barriers to education only get more entrenched as refugee youth get older, WUSC intends to leverage the ENABLE project to provide more education opportunities to refugee girls in Tanzania. We have recently started to recruit for our Student Refugee Program in the country, creating new opportunities for young refugees to continue their education at the postsecondary level in Canada.

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