While students around the world go back to school, millions of children that fled conflict and drought in East Africa have no classes to attend.
“We decided to flee Burundi because there was war. I miss the school where I was studying in Burundi. I had enough materials, shoes and clothes, pens, eraser and a school bag”, says ten-year-old Nyongere at Nduta refugee camp in Tanzania. But this year he has no school to attend.
With war and drought hitting several East African countries, millions of children like Nyongere that fled their homes are crammed into camps with few schools, and little chance for an education.
Many children remain stuck in refugee camps for years, wishing that they could go to school. In the Kigoma district camps in Tanzania, some classes are held under trees, and the number of students in each class can be as high as 200. About half of 318,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees in Tanzania living in refugee camps are children. Only 65 percent of primary, and three percent of secondary students are in school.
In South Sudan 2.2 million children are out of school due to conflict in several regions. The country has the highest proportion of children out of school globally, with over 70% of children not getting an education. Over one third of all schools have been damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
In Somalia, over two decades of conflict meant that access to basic education was among the world’s lowest. This was worsened by the current drought which caused 766,000 people to flee their homes, imperilling the little but hard-won progress in education. 1.7 million children of school age are not in school, and 30 percent of children complete four years of schooling without learning basic elementary skills.
In Uganda, there are now over one million refugees from South Sudan, and more than half are children. 40% of 6 to 13 year olds are not enrolled in primary school and 80% of secondary school-aged young people are not enrolled in secondary education. Each teacher has up to 128 children in their class.
In Kenya, 588,000 school age children need emergency education assistance due to the drought crisis. Over 1,200 schools do not have access to safe drinking water. Only seven percent of funding needs for emergency education have been met.
With the East African drought crisis, education receives far less funding than other emergency programmes. Out of the $970 million in funding committed to the drought crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, only $16.5 million is for education projects, only 1.7 percent of total funds.
Education funding for other crises in the region is also far below the need. The international aid community agreed in 2015 that four percent of humanitarian aid should go to education, but that target has not been reached for any country in the region. Among areas of humanitarian need, education is funded the least. This leaves a huge funding shortfall.
Education is lifesaving for displaced children. School attendance can keep children from joining armed groups. Lifesaving awareness on landmines and unexploded bombs can be taught in school. Without hygiene knowledge that children can learn in school, some refugee children can die of disease. Schools for refugees often provide lunches, reducing child malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.
With more children fleeing their homes and with little humanitarian funding for schools, East Africa faces an education crisis.