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

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

11 July 2017 Also available in:
© UNHCR/David Azia

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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).




The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.