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Chad: Sudanese refugee children begin new school year in camps

Briefing notes

Chad: Sudanese refugee children begin new school year in camps

8 October 2004

Some 18,000 Sudanese refugee children between the ages of 5 and 17 officially began the new school year this week in eight of the ten UNHCR refugee camps in eastern Chad. In a number of camps, classes organised by the refugees themselves were already being held ahead of the official school year starting. For many of the refugee children, this year marks the first time they have ever received basic formal education. The two most recently established camps, Oure Cassoni near Bahai and Treguine near Adré, which just opened last week, do not yet have school programmes in place.

We estimate 42,000 school-age children are not attending classes in part due to a lack of resources, including teachers and school supplies, but also because parents need the children to help with daily tasks such as searching for firewood and fetching water. Together with our NGO partners and UNICEF, we are trying to increase the schooling capacity and are talking to parents about how to boost attendance.

One major problem has been the recruitment of teachers. While some older refugees have many years of experience teaching in the Sudanese school system, most of those recruited so far are high school students themselves with little or no on-the-job training. More than 150 teachers have been recruited, but many more must be identified to meet the refugee agency's standard of one teacher per 40 to 45 students.

UNICEF plans to distribute 300 tents to be used for classrooms, 200 kits containing school materials and 12,000 teaching manuals over the next several weeks. The construction of 24 semi-permanent schools is necessary to properly accommodate all the children, with the cost of construction, equipment and salaries for teachers estimated at three million dollars.

Providing primary education to all children in the refugee camps in eastern Chad is one of our top priorities. Discussions are underway with the Chadian government to award diplomas at the end of the school year so the studies will be recognized when the refugees eventually return home to Sudan. The schools in the camps will follow the Sudanese teaching curriculum, with classes given in Arabic. For the moment, the curriculum is limited to basic reading and mathematics. Some adult literacy programmes for refugee women have also been started in some of the camps.

In a separate development, UNHCR yesterday received a shipment of 700 tents donated by the Japanese Government for Sudanese refugees in Chad. The tents will shelter refugees in the Goz Amer and Djabal camps. UNHCR expressed its gratitude for the Japanese contribution which will significantly improve the living conditions of many refugee families.