Report: Refugee Children Out Performing Ugandans

Refugee children are performing better at school compared to their counterparts in the refugee hosting communities, according to findings by Uwezo.

The findings, released ahead of the World Refugee Day, are based on studies conducted in October 2017 in Isingiro, Adjumani, Yumbe and Arua districts that have the highest concentration of refugees in Uganda

During the Survey, Uwezo operated in 120 Villages with refugees, 103 primary schools and reached out to 2,186 households. Uwezo set out to find out whether children in refugee settlements were learning effectively at school and how they were fairing compared to the children outside refugee settlements.

The assessment covered 4,156 children aged between six and 16 years. The children were given primary two English and Maths tests and were assessed throughout Primary seven both in and outside the settlements.

The study showed that all refugee children in Adjumani district can read, comprehend and divide by the time they reach P7 compared to 87 percent of the children in P7 outside the refugee settlements.

Despite significant differences in the education inputs between schools inside refugee settlements and those outside, learning outcomes were low among children in both places. With over 90 per cent of the pupils in Primary three failing to read, comprehend and divide P.2 work.

While at Nakivale refugee settlement in Isingiro district, four out of 10 children about 42 per cent of the children in Primary five have Primary Two literacy and numeracy skills compared to three out of 10 about 27 per cent Primary Five Pupils outside settlements.

Dr. Mary Goretti Nakabugo, the Manager of Uwezo Uganda at Twaweza, says children in refugee settlements are disadvantaged in terms of learning conditions such as high pupil to teacher ratio, limited textbooks and classrooms.

According to the report, inside the refugee settlements, there is higher pupil to classroom ratio with almost two or three times as many children per classroom compared to their peers outside the settlements.

For instance statistics from Ivempi refugee settlement in Arua shows that 350 pupils shared a class compared to 127 outside the camp on average. In Adjumani, one classroom was being shared by 139 in a settlement while outside settlements; the average was 85 pupils per class.

In terms of textbooks, the findings show higher pupil to textbook ratios inside settlements with refugee children sharing one textbook between 27 to 111children compared to non-refugee children where between one to four children share a textbook.

Dr. Nakabugo says they expect stakeholders including Ministry of Education and Sports and other actors in the refugee sector to respond to the findings.

The assessment further point higher pupil to teacher ratios in the settlements. In Isingiro for instance, there are 83 pupils per teacher in the camp compared to 28 children per teacher outside the settlement. In Arua there are 190 pupils per teacher inside the settlements compared to 78 children per teacher outside.

The data also shows that Somali pupils in P.3-P.7 about 65 per cent of them living in settlements in Uganda are much more likely to be able to read, comprehend and divide compared to 27 per cent of the Ugandan children in the area.

Additionally, refugee children who have been in Uganda over one year are more likely to have P.2 literacy and numeracy skills compared to those that have been here for less than a year. Another key objective of the study which was to assess the school and household conditions that influence children’s learning inside and outside refugee settlements, the situation varied.

Refugees had access to piped water as their major source of water in all settlements at 35 per cent compared to 13 percent outside the settlements. Although solar is the main source of lighting for both groups, 66 per cent refugees depend on solar compared to 40 percent outside the settlements.

In all the districts surveyed, when it comes to food and housing, only 7 per cent of the refugees compared to 34 per cent of non-refugees eat three or more meals per day. The majority (around 77 per cent) of those in settlements have dwellings made out of mud/stick/polythene. This is contrasted to six of ten (about 61 per cent) of those living outside of settlements that have houses made of brick or stones.

Globally, there are over 68 million people living in refugee settlements. Uganda is home to about 1.4million refugees making it the biggest host of refugees on the continent. The United Nations women estimates, refugees spend about 17 years of their years in host countries.

Violet Alinda, the Uwezo’s Advocacy Manager, says since majority refugees in Ugandan camps are children, they are likely to spend their schooling years in settlements

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