The current global pandemic has created universal challenges to accessing education that millions have never faced before. This summer, children all round the world are getting ready to return to a very different school environment.
This summer also marks 30 years since the beginning of Children on the Edge. We’ve been overcoming barriers to education for the most marginalised since 1990, so for us, lockdown has been just one more hurdle to jump. The children we work with have been amongst the hardest hit, so we’ve been providing regular support and finding creative ways to get them back to school.
In Kyaka II refugee settlement, Uganda we have been piloting the use of radio lessons to ensure the youngest Congolese refugee children can still have access to their early years education. Near the start of the Ugandan lockdown, all education services in the camp were shut. We started a home-learning programme for teachers so they can continue their full training and take their university exams in January.
The children have been working with our resource officers and teachers to work through the Ugandan Early Childhood Development (ECD) home learning curriculum. Activity packs are delivered once a month with pencils and crayons to keep the children learning. It has also been translated into suitable languages and is accompanied by a parents guide. Follow up visits from the teachers will also serve as a means to check on children’s safety and wellbeing while they are unable to attend the centres.
Learning through lockdown - Creating a sustainable start for 5,000 Congolese refugee children in Uganda.
From carbon saving bricks to locally crafted learning materials, Children on the Edge and Haileybury Youth Trust are working in Kyaka II refugee settlement to create sustainable and climate-friendly early years education.
Near the start of Ugandan lockdown, all education services were shut and the World Food Programme cut food rations by 30% for refugees. Since then, our team in Kyaka II refugee settlement have been finding creative ways to get supplies to the most vulnerable households, support teachers and ensure children have access to learning.
When we think of distance learning during lockdown, the images that often spring to mind are interactive whiteboards, back-to-back digital lessons and a variety of personalised online programmes. In the situations where we work, there are many distinctive barriers to simply protecting and connecting with children during lockdown, let alone delivering effective learning opportunities, but our partners are rising to the challenge.
“The loss of her little brother left Jemima and her parents shaken and demoralised. They stopped seeing education as something valuable and were considering stopping her from coming to school” - Ibrahim Bagwiire (resource person for Kaborogota Zone)
During school break, the head caregiver, a team of teachers from her centre, and Ibrahim made numerous visits to the family where they comforted them and gently persuaded them to bring Jemima back to school. They also encouraged Jemima and talked to her parents about how being back in a safe and welcoming environment on a regular basis would be the best place for her at this time.
Jemima returned when school term began in February 2020 and her teachers decided it would be best for her to repeat baby class so she could fill in the gaps she had missed and have another chance to take the exam. They gave her extra time and attention right up until the time the coronavirus pandemic struck.
By then Jemima was attending regularly and doing very well in both classroom and outdoor activities. The head caregiver attributed this turnaround to the expertise of Jemima’s teachers and himself, adding that training from Children on the Edge Africa developed the skills they needed to help Jemima when she needed it most.
Gali is three years old and his parents fled to Kyaka II refugee settlement about four years ago after a life-threatening conflict erupted between the Hema and Lendu tribes in their village of Ituri in DR Congo.
Uganda is a leading example to the world in the way it hosts refugees, but Gali’s mother Maurine says that since crossing the border into the country life has not been easy. “I was a farmer back in DRC and although the government gives us land here in Uganda, it is too small to use for an agricultural project. We are solely dependent on handouts from the World Food Programme and support from UNHCR”.
Refugee communities have hit the ground running in impressive style, preparing for the strengthening of early years education in Kyaka II settlement, Uganda. Since the launch announcement of the programme in May, new staff have been engaging in high quality training and creating colourful learning resources for centres.
Kyaka II refugee settlement, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has approximately 700 new arrivals each week over 65% of which are children. Having fled armed conflict, ebola, and horrific human rights abuses, many suffer extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the brutality of war and displacement. They face serious child protection risks and have nowhere safe to go during the day.
The youngest refugee children need support
A number of NGOs are providing primary education in Kyaka II, but early years education provision is limited for the youngest children, at a vital time in their development. Our assessment showed a need for up to 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across 30 communities within the settlement.
In these communities, local people are doing the best they can to provide early years learning, but provision and resources are variable at best. While some communities are doing well, with Centres in a relatively good state of repair, others have non-existent provision and broken down venues that are not fit for purpose. Many Centres lack consistent quality teacher training, or well established community ownership. Without this, trained teachers have no incentive to use their training locally, and leave to find jobs in other areas of Uganda, and communities have no support or resources to maintain provision.
Resourcing communities to provide early years education
Through training and targeted resourcing, we aim to support 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II camp, to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost effective ECD for their children.
With multiple conflicts stretching across vast areas of the country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most complex and long-standing humanitarian situations.
Civilians here are exposed to gross human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence, chronic malnutrition, and various health epidemics including the serious spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).