DFID, August 2010: ‘Back to School for Burundi’s Returning Refugees.’
In Northern Tanzania between 1972 and 2003, as many as 700,000 Burundians sought refuge from ethnic massacres during Burundi’s civil cars. Following the end of the second civil war in 2005, the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania agreed to close all refugee camps by 2010. Almost 500,000 refugees have now returned.
But they are facing problems. Many repatriated students were born in Tanzania after their parents fled Burundi. In Tanzania, students study in Swahili and English, while the school system in Burundi teaches in Kirundi and French. Their parents are therefore unable to integrate their children into local schools, causing them to miss out on a basic education.
That is why DFID in Burundi is funding the Refugee Education Trust (RET) to build and renovate schools in areas of high return which will explicitly give returning students a chance to learn the (new) language and continue their education.
In August 2009, Shukrani returned to Burundi from Tanzania where he was a refugee. There he had almost completed secondary school but on returning to Burundi, he was put in a class 4 school years lower. Even at this level it remains difficult for him to understand his lessons.
“When I arrived in Burundi, I found that most of the courses were in French, with my poor background in French, it was difficult for me to succeed in any course. After the full time training in this learning centre, I hope that for next school year due to start in September 2010, I will be able to join my real class level”.
Since 2008 RET has renovated and built more than 100 classrooms, bought 9000 pieces of desk furniture and fixed another 13,000. This has helped to improve the learning and teaching conditions of 25,000 students. Our programme is also providing intensive language training for over 1,000 refugees to make it possible for them to reintegrate into mainstream education for the next school year.
Repatriated students see DFID’s Secondary Schools Access for Returning Refugees Programme as a great opportunity that will enable them to also help others who face difficulties in accessing education. In the future Esta (extreme left in the picture opposite), a 15 year old secondary student who was put in the second form in primary school after her return, has a dream:
“I want to progress to my real grade by September 2010 and study to become a teacher to help other children.”
Who knows? Maybe in few years, Esta may herself be teaching in one of the schools that DFID has helped set up!
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