South Sudan: “I want to go to school by any means.” Education, the Hope at Refugee Camp

Because of continuous disorder caused by civil war in South Sudan since December 2013, more and more people have fled to Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, a neighboring country of South Sudan. In order to provide emergency assistance, Naoki UMEDA and Daiki TSUCHIKAWA, AAR staff members in South Sudan, visited the site on February 3rd to conduct a field survey. Despite increasing numbers of refugees, water supply is acutely inadequate at the camp. There also arises another problem of insufficient education for the children. Daiki TSUCHIKAWA reports on the latest situation.

Refugees are on the increase, but schools are insufficient

About 100,000 refugees from neighboring countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, as well as South Sudan live in Kakuma Refugee Camp which was founded in 1992. Since many of the refugees are unable to return to their home countries, schools have been set up for these children. There are 6 nursery schools, 17 elementary schools, and 5 junior high schools in the camp. However, due to an influx of new refugees from South Sudan, they urgently need more schools.
Considering this situation, LWF (Luther World Federation), an international NGO, set up a new school at Kakuma Refugee Camp. On February 3rd, under the 5 tents provided by UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund), around 1,700 children ranging from kindergarten to 3rd grade of elementary school are studying in this new school. However, there’s no desks or chairs, only some mats on the ground. Although the number of children is expected to grow, the school has almost reached its capacity and children over 4th grade of elementary school are not accepted into the school.
5 tents are used as a school. However the school has almost reached its enrolment limit due to capacity constraints.
(Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

More schools and educational equipment, such as tents, strong enough to withstand sandstorms, and desks are in need for the growing numbers of children. The tents currently being used for schools are not strong enough and a lot of sand comes into the classroom. Although there are neither blackboards nor desks, the children are still anxious to study under the tough circumstances.
There are 17 teachers in the new school and they are all refugees. Former teachers and other dedicated people voluntarily teach the children. (Daiki TSUCHIKAWA (right) AAR staff: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

Children gathering in the new “school”, which is a tent with no equipment. They are taking a lesson without any chairs or desks. (Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)


Provide a place to study for youth, who have been robbed of their ordinary lives

Joseph is an 18 year old former soldier and a Nuer. He took part in the recent battle and while he was patrolling in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, he witnessed the soldiers of Dinka, the opponent ethic group, killing Nuer residents without hesitation. This convinced him that it was just a matter of time before he would be killed. Then, he threw away his weapon and escaped immediately. He changed buses and finally managed to reach Kakuma Refugee Camp. He said, “I’m glad that the public safety is maintained and nobody own firearms at the camp. I'm going to go to school.”
At Kakuma Refugee Camp, I encountered a number of young people who are eager to receive education. A boy in his late teens said, “In my hometown, I looked after cattle and goats and had no options for schooling. But I don’t have any livestock here. I want to start studying from the 1st grade of elementary school.”  A boy of 18 said, “I lost my parents and relatives in this battle and I came to the camp all by myself. I cannot tell what will happen to me, but I do want to go to school by any means.” Having education is a hope at the refugee camp not only for small children but also for young people who have been robbed of their ordinary lives.

Children gathering around AAR staff, Naoki Umeda after their class. (Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

AAR plans to continue its survey and provide refugees with much needed assistance such as water supply and educational support, coordinating with other humanitarian organizations so as not to duplicate the support. Activity reports will be updated on the AAR website. We appreciate your support.

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Daiki TUCHIKAWA AAR JAPAN South Sudan Office (profile as of the date of the article)
Started working at AAR in October 2012. He has been dispatched to South Sudan since April 2013. After graduating from a university, he worked as a system engineer and senior high school teacher. Afterwards, majored development study at graduate school in Australia. Born in Iwate Prefecture and grew up in India.