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Tuesday, 20 June 2017 - 9:52am

With nearly one million refugees expected to have crossed the border from South Sudan to Uganda by the end of this month, Save the Children is calling for education to be put at the centre of a make-or-break summit on Thursday, June 22, in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Nearly three quarters of a million refugees – more than half of them children – have arrived in Uganda since fighting escalated last July.

The organisation warns that many children – some as young as 11 – are making the journey alone, having fled from their homes or villages due to insecurity and violence.

Bidi Bidi, now reportedly the largest refugee camp in the world, houses approximately 270,000 people, most of whom are living in tarpaulin homes and relying on help provided by the Ugandan government and aid organisations to survive.

A summit – organised by the Government of Uganda and attended by the UN Secretary General and NGOs – aims to raise critical funds for the response so it can continue providing nearly 1.3 million refugees with basic services.

Save the Children has urged donors attending the summit to back a plan of action for delivering universal education to all South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. In a report released today, the agency warns that over 900,000 refugee children could be locked out of education over the next three years.

Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children, recently met refugees on the border. He said:

“The numbers arriving over the border each day are extraordinary, the majority of them women and children. 

“Over the past year, a refugee population equivalent to that of a city the size of Newcastle has moved into one of the poorest parts of Uganda.

“This is now one of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the largest African refugee displacement since the Rwandan genocide. Uganda is the gold standard of how to welcome refugees but it needs international help.”

First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Honourable Janet Museveni, said:

“As a mother myself, it breaks my heart that children are forced to flee from their homes in South Sudan to Uganda. Some are alone, desperately scared for their future. Some report witnessing terrible atrocities, the scars of which will last a lifetime. Many have missed school, further stunting their future and life chances.

“I am humbled that Uganda is offering some help at such scale, and we will continue to do so – but we need the support of those who are willing to do a part.”

Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of Tanzania and a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity said that without international support for the education of refugee children, Uganda’s progressive approach to refugees will be put at risk.

“Uganda’s commitment to refugees must be matched by commensurate support from the international community. By ensuring Uganda has the financial support necessary to ensure all refugees have access to quality education donors can deliver on the compact agreed by the UN last year, which promised support for low and middle income countries, like Uganda, hosting large refugee populations.”

Save the Children is sharing its education plan with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. It challenges donors to step up to pay $132 million each year for three and half years helping to cover costs for:

  • The construction of 304 new early childhood and primary school sites using semi-permanent classrooms constructed to a standard conducive to learning.
  • The construction of 110 new secondary schools. Reading materials, text books and school supplies for all schools.
  • The employment of 5,307 primary and secondary school teachers.
  • The training, recruitment and accreditation of 750 primary school teachers from South Sudan.
  • Support for host communities.

Save the Children is providing emergency schooling to refugees across Uganda, offering early schooling for young children, top-up classes for those who have fallen behind, and providing safe spaces for children to play, learn and to recover from their trauma.