By Sabir Musa, contributing editor Naseeba Bagalaaliwo
Since 2003, Madi-Okollo has been a refugee hosting district, located in the West Nile region. UNHCR estimates that 6,923 refugees have been resettled in the district with women and children making up the majority of refugees in the Rhino Camp settlement. Having escaped on-going civil wars in neighboring South Sudan the vast majority of the children have forced to drop out of school and have been excluded from educational institutions. As they try to pick up the pieces and make a new life in host countries many have lost hope and faced extreme hardships due to the civil wars.
Tackling the educational needs of a displaced communities is one of the largest challenges of resettling refugees in host countries. In West Nile, the Inde Technical School is working to address this challenge to bring hope back and impart skills to the refugee community.
Established by presidential decree in 1984, Inde Technical School has introduced an annual scholarship fund for refugee. The scholarship is helping creat a pathway back to education for youth in the refugee settlement camp enabling students to attend 3-year programs in a variety of disciplines. Among the courses offered by the school are Carpentry and Joinery, Electrical Installation, Tailoring, Motor Vehicle Mechanics and Garment Cutting.
School Deputy Head Teacher, Charles Andrua says, “the board sat down and said let’s help the refugees, so there are 5 of them; 2 males and them 3 females”.
Unlike, most institutions in Uganda that hike their fees based on country of citizenship, the Inde School is able to support South Sudanese students under this scholarship by charging the same tuition to South Sudanese students that it does for Ugandan nationals.
Betty Kiden, a refugee from Rhino Camp settlement joined the Tailoring and Garment Cutting course in 2020 but due to the global Corona virus pandemic, learning centers were closed by the government of Uganda in March. Kiden however, is optimistic that she will complete the course once learning resumes saying, “this will improve my livelihood.”
John Kibo, another beneficiary of the scholarship plans to set-up training centers for other refugee children after completing his course.
The school management hopes to increase the number of refugee students benefiting from this scholarship but with enrolment at 258 students in March of this year, the school also faces the challenge of insufficient infrastructure. Since 1984 very little has been done to improve the facilities at the school and more needs to me done to create more opportunities for refugee students. Besides the scholarship other organizations like the Windle Trust are also helping to support refugees.
“We need support from NGOs and other well-wishers” says Charles Andrua, “to support the school by training the trainers to boost enrolment and infrastructure development because when we have income then we can do other things and put them in place”.
Some good news does seem to be on the horizon for the students at Inde Technical school, the Government recently opened classes for final year students and it is hoped that sometime in early 2021 students like John and Betty will be able to resume their classes too.
Sabir Musa is a young and passionate Peace Journalist based in Arua City.