Refugee Scholars Gain Skills for Life


Despite its small size, Uganda is one of the most refugee-friendly countries in the world. So far in 2018, Uganda is hosting an estimated 1.3 million refugees, with the majority fleeing conflict and violence in South Sudan. Many of the South Sudanese refugees crossing the border are young people eager to get back to school and begin rebuilding their lives.

In Yumbe District, Northern Uganda, Educate! is partnering with secondary schools within three refugee settlements. Educate!'s program is particularly useful to these youth who are eager to learn the skills they’ll need to succeed in their new home. However, schools in these settlements face challenges that are unique to their circumstance. To ensure our program provides the maximum benefit to youth there, our staff must identify contextual challenges that might affect the program or students and modify the program accordingly.

One initial challenge identified in Yumbe was the sheer size of the settlements -- including Bidibidi, the largest refugee settlement in the world. With an area that spans over 100 square miles, the enormity of the camp makes it more difficult for students to participate in the program. Our team in Yumbe also noticed a difference in the students’ ability to accumulate start-up capital to launch business and community projects: the refugee settlements in Yumbe operate largely on the ration system, and with very little cash circulating, students initially struggled to mobilize funds for their new enterprises.

Fortunately, the Educate! Scholars in Yumbe have found ways to overcome the challenges they face, and successfully launched a business project manufacturing soap. By selling the soap to the health centers in the settlements at a price under the market rate (but still profit-generating), the students were able to beat the competition. Now, the students’ project is helping to improve hygiene in their community, and their next goal is to generate enough profit from soap sales to expand into other product areas.

In spite of what the students have endured and the challenges they continue to navigate in the settlements, they remain remarkably dedicated to the Educate! program. Educate! Youth Leader for the region, Harriet Atayi, is inspired by her Scholars’ perseverance and engagement. She shared that although the students travel miles each day, they are laser focused and eager to learn. Harriet has seen firsthand the creative solutions her students use in the face of adversity, and she believes by preparing them with valuable 21st century skills, they will be able to get jobs, start their own businesses, and create brighter futures for themselves.