Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugees, has asked development partners to increase their assistance to provide refugees with a high-quality education.
Onek made the appeal on Wednesday during the unveiling of the second plan for refugee education at the State House in Nakasero. He acknowledged that although some funds have been allocated to support the education of refugees, the current amount is insufficient and may not enable Uganda to cater to all refugees who require and deserve access to education.
The minister added that with more numbers of refugees coming into Uganda, there is a need for long-term development solutions.
Uganda plays a significant role as a host nation for refugees, granting sanctuary to around 1.55 million individuals who have sought safety within its borders. These refugees, who continue to arrive daily, are escaping the perils of conflict and instability in their home countries.
Remarkably, statistics indicate that 60 percent which represents over 924,000 of these displaced individuals are children, underscoring the urgent need for providing them with educational opportunities.
The continuous influx of refugees is placing immense pressure on the already limited educational resources within local communities. The strain is particularly evident in schools, where many classrooms lack proper infrastructure such as walls and electricity.
Additionally, the absence of essential facilities like latrines and basic sanitation further hinders the safe and dignified accommodation of the growing number of children. Moreover, there is a severe shortage of teachers, exacerbating the challenges, and a scarcity of fundamental educational materials such as books and desks.
Ketty Lamaro, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, said that in order to address the challenge, a new Education Response Plan (ERP II) has been developed.
Lamaro added that the plan, valued at 1.67 trillion Shillings, is expected to bring significant benefits to a total of 675,000 individuals from both refugees and the communities hosting them between the financial year 2022/2023 to 2024/2025.
Mohamed El Munir A. Safieldin, the UNICEF Country Representative, emphasized that the new plan and funds available are heading in the right direction. He added that providing education to refugee children is crucial for their eventual return home and overcoming the obstacles that have hindered them for a long time.
In 2018, Uganda launched the world’s first-ever refugee education response plan which made a great impact on enrollment rates and a few other areas like school infrastructure development.
The gross enrollment ratio in the targeted areas rose from 58 percent in 2018 to an impressive 88.5 percent by the time the project concluded in 2020, specifically for learners enrolled in primary schools.
Presently, across all communities hosting refugees, a remarkable number of 474,363 learners are enrolled in various education levels, ranging from early childhood development to secondary school. Out of this total, approximately 79.1 percent, equivalent to 375,913 learners, are refugees themselves.
Jason Hepps, the Deputy Country Representative of UNHRC, acknowledged the positive progress made in the past five years through the initial education response plan. However, he emphasized that there is still a considerable distance to cover, as numerous challenges persist and require immediate attention.
Hepps concurred with Onek’s perspective, stating that overcoming these challenges necessitates the commitment of all stakeholders involved, including the government. He stressed the importance of adopting long-term planning strategies, which are crucial for ensuring the sustainability of recurrent costs and effectively addressing the existing infrastructure gaps.
During the launch of the response plan, Janet Kataha Museveni, the Education Minister, drew attention to the unsatisfactory learning outcomes and inadequate skills training experienced in the Refugee Hosting Districts.
Janet said that the second refugee plan should focus on specific areas that aim to enhance quality learning for both refugees and hosting communities, which will lead to improved learning outcomes.
She further emphasized the importance of catering to the host communities in a special way during the implementation of refugee projects. She highlighted that host communities can sometimes be overshadowed by the needs of the refugees, and it is crucial to ensure that their specific needs and concerns are adequately addressed-URN (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at email@example.com).