H&M Foundation joins hands with UNHCR to offer education for refugee children

Together, they help restore lost hopes by bringing refugee children in Uganda back to school.

© UNHCR/David Azia


Thirteen-year-old Luis, from Juba, South Sudan, centre, raises his hand to answer a question during a mathematics class. © UNHCR/David Azia


Eight-year-old Saron, from Yei, South Sudan, writes down answers in her exercise book at the Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi refugee settlement, Uganda.© UNHCR/David Azia


“I like math the most. I study hard so I can speak English,” says Saron, who loves going to school and wants to be a doctor when she grows up, to help people.© UNHCR/David Azia


Students hand their workbooks to their teacher as he reviews their work during a mathematics class at the Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi refugee settlement.© UNHCR/David Azia


Students hold new workbooks, pens and pencils after they were distributed by teachers at the Ofonze Primary School in Bidibidi settlement.© UNHCR/David Azia


Teacher Bako Zulaika poses for a photograph outside one of the classrooms at the Ofonze Primary School.© UNHCR/David Azia


In the dusty and arid landscape of Bidibidi settlement in northern Uganda sits Ofonze School. Although just a modest construction of wooden poles and UNHCR tarpaulin, inside classrooms hum with the hopes and dreams of over 1,000 refugee children from neighbouring South Sudan. Forced to flee their homes because of unspeakable violence and hunger, the majority of refugee families have come to Uganda looking for safety, lifesaving aid and the chance of a brighter future. Every parent fervently hopes for an education for their children and the needs are great – a massive 86 per cent of new arrivals are women and children.

“We ran because people were killed during
the night. My mother said we have to come here.”


In the Primary 3 class one student’s smile shines the brightest. Saron, 8 years old, is from Yei in South Sudan. Her home is in the ‘breadbasket’ of South Sudan – a green and agriculturally rich land where giant mangoes hang temptingly from trees in the schoolyards. In her pink ‘Hello Kitty’ t-shirt, she could be a normal, happy young girl anywhere in the world but what she has experienced is hard to imagine.

When they fled she had to leave behind most of her belongings including her clothes and her text books. She remembers her old school in Yei fondly with its tree-filled yard, brick classrooms and iron roof that protected them from the elements. In Ofonze School, the rainy season will soon kick in and the headmaster fears that the tarpaulin roof will not be enough to protect the teachers and students from the deluge.


“When we came here, we didn’t have our things.

But when I came to school, I was given books and pens.

I was happy.”


Saron loves nice dresses and shoes, spending time with her friends and going to school. Her teacher says she is a good student. “I like English the most. I study hard so I can speak English,” says a determined Saron. “We left everything behind in South Sudan.”

After school, Saron plays football with her friends and then goes home to her mother and sisters and brothers. Her father died in South Sudan. The thing that she dislikes the most in her daily routine is doing household chores like fetching water. She would much prefer to do her homework. When she grows up she would like to be a doctor and help people.

The new school year commenced on 6 February and schools have reopened across refugee settlements in Uganda. In Bidibidi, the total enrolment of children in schools stands at close to 50,000 children (48 per cent girls).


About UNHCR:

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. UNHCR delivers life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, helps safeguard fundamental human rights, and develops solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. UNHCR also works to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality. UNHCR’s dedicated teams are on the ground in some 128 countries across the world, working in partnership with governments, NGOs, the private sector, community groups, host communities as well as refugees.

About H&M Foundation:

H&M Foundation is a non-profit global foundation, privately funded by the Stefan Persson family, founders and main owners of the fashion company H&M. Its mission is to create long lasting positive change and improve living conditions by investing in communities, people and innovative ideas. Through partnerships with prominent organizations around the globe, H&M Foundation drives change within four focus areas; Education, Clean water, Equality and Protecting the planet. In addition, H&M Foundation can also provide emergency relief. H&M Foundation has been working with UNHCR since 2015, when it donated US$500,000 in support of UNHCR’s response to the Europe emergency, helping to provide much needed food, shelter, medical care as well as registration services and special support for children.