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Sudanese refugees being trained as teachers for refugee children in Chad camps

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Scholarships, training and new schools are ways in which education is being delivered to thousands of people at several refugee camps.

Nearly 700 refugees from Sudan who are living in Chad have been trained as teachers.

Many of the 300,000 Darfuri refugees in Chad who fled genocide in Sudan over a decade ago face limited chances to continue education and find work.

But they are being given access to education through a unique teacher-training programme.

One of them is Khadidja Ahmat Djouma, a second-year student originally from Ouroum in Sudan.

She said she wanted to teach because there were not enough teachers in Djabal refugee camp.

“When I study in the school we were 170 pupils for one teacher. In the class there weren’t desks for all of us and we had to sit in the floor," she said.

"These class conditions and the amount of pupils reduced the quality of the education in my school. Besides, when I finish, I will return to Djabal camp to teach the children of my community."

The programme is run by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS), which supports refugees and other forcibly displaced persons around the world. It was founded in 1980 in response to a humanitarian crisis faced by the Vietnamese boat people.

Today it works in around 50 countries to support the educational, health and social needs of refugees. Education is a main focus and JRS offers displaced families and children both formal and informal instruction - including pre-school, primary, secondary, professional and post-secondary education.

JRS also trains teachers, pays their salaries and builds schools.

“The refugees have been living in camps for more than 10 years. It’s a protracted crisis and their safety and security cannot be guaranteed back in Sudan," said Giulia McPherson of the charity Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

"There are few options for them to be resettled outside of Chad. The situation is challenging. We’ve been there for 12 years and run the majority of education programmes for these Sudanese refugees."

In Chad, its teacher-training project has involved people from 12 refugee camps in the eastern part of the country. After training, teachers take what they have learned back into refugee primary schools.

Scholarships are offered to refugee students who complete secondary level school so they can enrol in local teacher-training colleges.

The three-year programme offers intensive training and graduates can teach in the refugee camps or in Chadian public schools or private schools.

McPherson said: “Education has been the focal point of our work in Chad, which is a remote region. We started with formal education programmes and are currently operating all the pre-school programmes, the primary school programmes and the secondary school programmes - even some of the post-secondary projects.

“What we see happening is that children drop out of schools, so they can start working to help provide for their families. Some girls will be married off at a young age, so we see a number of children drop out at the end of primary.

“What we’re trying to do is provide incentives to the family and students, to try redress that gap - and some of it is post-secondary opportunities where refugees see there are opportunities for them to continue their education and build a skill - so that it makes more sense for them to stay in school.

To date, 570 primary school teachers have been trained by JRS in Chad since 2012 and 100 secondary school teachers since 2016.

McPherson continued: “We also provide scholarships for secondary school graduates to enrol in a local teacher-training college - that’s a two-year programme. The first cohort of that programme should be wrapping up their studies in the New Year.

“The scholarships we provide take place in a Chadian teacher training college. There was an agreement made between our organisation, the Chadian government and UNHCR, to allow and provide for additional opportunities for Sudanese refugees to access more local services, to promote integration within the host community."

Student Khadidja Ahmat Djouma said: “I was studying in secondary school and I took my graduate in high school in 2016 and that year JRS opened scholarships to study in Abéché. I am very happy with the programme.

"I have finished with success the two semesters of the first year and I wait for the scores of last semester. But I think that I will pass it.”