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Chadian camp lacks resources but does not skimp on school


Chadian camp lacks resources but does not skimp on school

At Iridimi camp for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, the children attend classes under shelters made of plastic sheeting, pending the completion of school buildings. But that has not dampened their desire to learn or their parents' and teachers' commitment to educating them for the future.
27 April 2005
Sudanese schoolchildren dance in a circle in the yard of Iridimi camp in eastern Chad.

IRIDIMI, Chad, April 27 (UNHCR) - The ritual unfolds every time someone comes to visit. Schoolgirls and boys run up to surround the visitor and recite expressions learnt in English and French: "Hello, how are you, ok," they repeat. Some are proud to show they know how to count in English while others bombard the visitor with questions.

"Our children are going to build the future. We want to secure a good education for them so that they can help change the situation in our country later," says Hassan Mahamat Juma, one of the teachers in Iridimi camp, located nearly 65 km from Chad's border with Sudan. It is one of the 11 UNHCR camps hosting 200,000 Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.

Since Iridimi camp opened in March last year, classes have started spontaneously on the initiative of refugee teachers. Despite the lack of resources, the education system is very well organised in the camp, where school-aged children make up about 30 percent of the 17,000-strong population. There is a school in every one of the camp's 10 zones, with young refugees attending either the central school or any of the nine branch schools.

Today, buildings are being constructed to improve schooling conditions. This has made the children very happy because their lessons, which focus on the Sudanese curriculum, help them remember their former life in Sudan. UNHCR, in collaboration with its partners and particularly the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has decided to finance this initiative to reinforce education. As part of this plan, UNICEF has just organised a training session for teachers.

"No education, no life," says Hassan, speaking not just as a teacher but also a father.

"We are satisfied with the attitude of the parents, who have proven to be reliable partners on education in the camp," says Christine Lamarque, who oversees community services for UNHCR in Iridimi. She adds that the refugees' top concern is their children's education in the camp.

The teachers are just as committed. "Most of their requests involve the supply of school materials, rather than salary increase," notes Lamarque. The devoted teachers are willing to double their workload to ensure that all registered students receive the education they deserve.

Adam Dewad Djibrin, 13, is in the third year of junior high school. He is happy not only to have passed in the upper class, and also that his brother and little sister are registered in school. "When I grow up, I will be a teacher to educate my sisters and brothers who have stayed in Sudan," he says.

"I will be a doctor when I grow up," adds another student, Oumar Fakara.

A vocational training centre will be opened in Iridimi camp to teach young refugees practical skills like sewing, shoe-repairing or woodworking. A nursery school will also be set up to promote education for little girls. Boys, too, will get the attention they need, with a new system to be established to educate those who tend to livestock for a living and thus are unable to attend school.

By Bernard Ntwari in Iridimi camp, Chad