Ongoing conflicts in South Sudan have left many in despair. South Sudanese refugees began arriving into Uganda from December 2013 when fighting broke out.
As of today, it is estimated that there are more 170, 000 South Sudanese refugees registered in Uganda and most of them are in refugee settlements in Adjumani District.
Plan International Uganda is currently implementing an 18 months project called "Promoting Education, Protection and Peace for South Sudanese refugee girls and boys" (PEPPS) in Adjumani district with funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The main goal of the project is to increase educational access in safe and protected learning environments for 11,600 South Sudanese refugee girls, boys and youth in 6 targeted settlements and 6 host communities in the district.
Some activities implemented to reach that goal include distribution of scholastic materials, creating child friendly spaces and developing early childhood care development centres (ECCDs). ECCDs are physical classroom structures where children in the age range of 3-7 participate in activities focusing on rehabilitation, mental development, meaningful play and pre-school education, with the support of trained caregivers.
Halima: Best teacher in school
Halima escaped war in South Sudan with her three children and settled in a refugee camp in Uganda in 2014. She soon signed up as a volunteer caregiver for Plan International’s early childhood care and development programme in the camp, and word about her contribution has spread across borders, reaching as far as her home nation.
In her late twenties, Halima is a single mother; she last saw her husband in South Sudan.
“My love for children comes from the struggle the children are going through. I want to ensure that the children, some of whom do not have both parents, can still enjoy early childhood education like other children in normal environments,” says Halima.
CENTRE OF EDUCATION
Arriving at the childcare centre at 7am, Halima works with the children for 4 hours, escorting them back home at the end of the morning session. She uses local materials like clay, bottle tops, empty tins and toys made out of rags to engage the children in play, writing, singing, literacy and numeracy.
“The children did not know anything when they came here from South Sudan, but now they can count, dance, comb their hair and clean themselves,” says Halima. She has gained the trust and love of the children to such an extent that many of them will look for her during the weekend when the centre is closed.
“Halima takes care of our children very well,” says one mother. “When they come home, they tell us stories, and sing for us songs they have learnt at school."
In the last year, Halima’s centre has seen an increase in the number of children from 157 to 230, partly because so many children want to attend.
“Halima is an outstanding volunteer. She is committed and does all it takes to ensure children are comfortable and receive the best care and love while at school,” says Dennis Okullu, Plan International’s education specialist in emergencies.
WORKING WITH PARENTS
Our childcare centres also host parent sessions where mothers can learn about issues related to their children’s well-being. Halima has helped to educate many of the 492 mothers who’ve attended meetings on hygiene, early childhood parenting skills and child protection in the camp.
Men have also been inspired to join the parenting sessions. This development has not only helped parents and guardians to understand their responsibility, but has significantly improved both the safety of children and the value attached to children’s education.
For more information about Plan International's work in Uganda, please visit the Plan International Uganda website.
For more information about the work of Plan International Sweden, please visit their website.
For more information about the European Commission's Children of Peace initiative, please visit DG ECHO's Children of Peace webpage.
For more information about the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection work, please visit DG ECHO's website.