Life as a young refugee shouldn’t mean the end of your education and future. We’re giving support to Burundian refugees and the struggling Congolese secondary schools which are hosting them.
Lusenda camps' teenage refugees are arguably the most vulnerable; to exploitation, harassment and sexual violence. And yet their welfare, particularly their education, seems to have been overlooked. Despite already being desperately underfunded and run-down, it is Congolese schools around the camp which are hosting Burundian students. This is where we are working – supporting the education and welfare of young refugees and their Congolese classmates.
The nature of refugee flight shouldn’t be forgotten – it is sudden and chaotic – often a case of grab what you can and run. Our first work within Lusenda’s schools has been to provide more than 1,000 young Burundian refugees with school uniforms, shoes, text books and stationery. Other than the clothes in which they arrived these uniforms are often the only change of clothing that the refugees own. The school shoes often their only footwear.
The quality of the lessons in Lusenda’s schools is a problem. Many teachers are doing their best in difficult circumstances, but have never received any kind of formal training – most only have a basic education. We are providing 91 teachers with in-job training. As well as ensuring that teachers understand and follow the national syllabus, our training equips teachers with strong, child-centered teaching methods and ensures that they can identify and support pupils suffering trauma.
Life is one of extremes within Lusenda camp. Extreme scarcity. Boredom that almost hurts. Boiling hot day and night in the summer, but then streams running through your tarpaulin shelter in the wet season.
Many of the students that we work with are teenagers or young adults who have been separated from their family. They are vulnerable and full of uncertainty – they were doing so well at school or college in Burundi - how much of their life is now going to be wasted in this camp?
The drama clubs that we run at six of Lusenda’s schools are an escape for these young refugees, a way to express themselves and take back some control. Because the drama clubs are made up of both Congolese and Burundian students, they also work to forge friendships and understanding.
It is now a year and a half since Lusenda camp has been established and only 15% of the funding required to provide its inhabitants with basic needs of hygiene, water, sanitation and education has materialised.
An emphasis of aid interventions on primary education has had the unintended consequence of pulling these scant resources away from secondary schooling. Where teenage students might have attended a full afternoon of lessons each day, they can now expect two hours if they are lucky.
This is why Children in Crisis is focussing its support in Lusenda on providing secondary education for both Burundian and Congolese students. We will help in whatever way we can until our funding runs out.