Our costed education plan for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda demonstrates that universal schooling in crises like these is both affordable and achievable.
Over half-a-million South Sudanese refugee children are living in refugee settlements across northern Uganda. The vast majority are out-of-school. Not that those in school are learning much. Most are packed into overcrowded tents or local schools lacking both textbooks and teachers who speak their language.
With more children crossing the border into northern Uganda every day, the refugee education crisis continues to grow.
Many of these children have lost parents, brothers, sisters and friends. They have witnessed unspeakable acts of violence. And now having fled their homes in search of protection they face the double jeopardy of losing the opportunity to go to school.
Education has a vital role to play in restoring these children’s hope and helping them to rebuild their lives. But there is a real and present danger that an entire generation of refugee children will be deprived of the education they desperately need.
A critical test of international support for countries hosting large numbers of refugees
Already home to 400,000 refugees from Burundi and DR Congo, Uganda now also hosts more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees, with on average 2,000 new refugees arriving every day – 85% of them are women and children.
This makes Uganda the third-ranked refugee-hosting country in the world.
The Ugandan government has responded to the refugee crisis with extraordinary generosity. It welcomes refugees, provides them land on which to build homes and has opened its already over-stretched schools, health facilities and other services to refugee populations.
The same cannot be said of the international community. Donor governments have funded just 17 per cent of the UN appeal for the South Sudan refugee response in Uganda this year. The response to the education emergency has bordered on derisory. Only a small fraction of the grossly inadequate $61.6m appeal for education has been delivered.
This week, UN agencies and the Ugandan government are convening a ‘Solidarity Summit’ on refugees. The aim is to mobilise international support for Uganda’s refugee response.
It will be a critical test of the pledges made last year at the World Humanitarian Summit and UN General Assembly to support developing countries hosting large refugee populations.
A plan to deliver education to all South Sudanese refugees in Uganda
Our new report ‘Restoring hope, Rebuilding lives: A plan of action for delivering universal education for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda’ challenges donor governments and international agencies to do better.
It sets out a plan of action which, if implemented, could deliver quality universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education for South Sudanese refugee children in Uganda at an average cost of $132 million USD a year for three and a half years.
This represents around $152 USD per child annually. The costs should be viewed as an investment in the future of over 1 million children – not just up to 900,000 refugees, but also the Ugandan children who will benefit from the expansion in services in the areas hosting refugees.
Among the priority areas of expenditure that the plan would fund are:
- The construction of 304 new pre-primary and primary school sites using semi-permanent classrooms constructed to a standard conducive to learning
- The construction of 110 new secondary schools
- The provision of reading material, text books and school supplies to all schools
- The recruitment and payment of over 4,00 trained caregivers who will provide children with pre-primary learning opportunities
- The employment of 5,307 primary and secondary school teachers
- The recruitment, training and accreditation of 750 primary school teachers from South Sudan
The investments we propose are not designed to meet an implausibly high-standard, but to deliver tangible and meaningful opportunities.
The financing pathway
‘Restoring Hope, Rebuilding lives’ identifies a range of possible funding sources, including the World Bank’s $2bn facility to support refugees and host communities.
And bilateral donors, including the UK, could reorient their planned investments to support the development of a multi-year response which prioritises education.
Financing the education needs of the refugees now living in Uganda is an opportunity to draw a line in the sand on the institutionalised neglect of education during emergencies.
Urgent action required
Many of the children who have fled into South Sudan have already lost a year of schooling and many more have never attended school in the first place. They cannot afford another year of prevarication on the part of donor governments.
Refugee children and their parents consistently identify education as a priority. They see schooling as a source of hope and opportunity – and they are right. It is time for the international community to listen to them.
Our costed plan demonstrates that universal schooling for refugees is both affordable and achievable, if the international community acts decisively.
Donate to our Emergency Fund today to help child refugees in Uganda and other children in emergencies around the world.