Eastern Chad: three women, one dream of education
Djabal, Eastern-Chad, October 2008 - “I want peace so I can continue school and become a doctor in my country,” says 13-year-old Manayar, who has been living for four years in Djabal refugee camp, Eastern Chad.
Her daily routine starts at four in the morning, when she wakes up to go to school. Manayar prepares tea and ‘la boule’ - a traditional Chadian and Sudanese dish made of warm bread and sauce – and wakes her two younger brothers to get them ready for school. After quickly sipping her tea, she rushes to the camp’s school to attend classes, which start at 7 o’clock in the morning.
Back to a healthy routine
Manayar’s agenda at school is clear-cut. She joins the other pupils to clean the courtyard and sing the Sudanese anthem before entering the classroom. Her curriculum includes mathematics, environmental education, geography and Arabic. Between 9 and 10 o’clock in the morning, all students go home for a quick break. At noon, the first part of Manayar’s day is over.
Her schedule continues after a short nap, when she goes out to fetch water for her mother before dedicating herself to school homework. At six in the afternoon, Manayar returns to educational activities for another hour and then finally she heads home. The long journey under a burning Chadian sun comes to an end at 10 o’clock in the evening. During summer holidays, agricultural labor and firewood collecting replace academic lessons in Djabal.
“I cannot imagine life without school,” Manayar says. “Studying opens my eyes and mind and is my path to the future,” she adds vividly. After she finishes speaking, her mother, Fatimé, and her grandmother, Mariam, join the conversation. Manayar’s grandmother, who can neither read nor write, works with UNICEF and the Italian Development Cooperation (COOPI) as a midwife in the Djabal camp, whereas Manayar’s mother helps with registering newborns.
The three generations are now sitting under a tree’s shade. The grandmother, who ensures safe deliveries for women; the mother, who is part of a Sudanese generation that fights for basic child rights - like birth certificates; and finally the daughter, who hopes to finish her education and fulfill her dream of one day becoming a doctor.
Thanks to UNICEF and its partners, more than 75,000 children like Manayar, who live in 12 Sudanese refugee camps, attended school during the first half of 2008. UNICEF’s support ranges from improving classroom equipments and distributing learning materials to training community teachers and parent-teacher associations.
Yet, challenges remain
UNICEF education projects for refugees in Chad are currently under-funded. Although almost all refugee children at primary school age manage to attend school, materials and classrooms are still insufficient.
Although Manayar has four more years until reaching 8th grade, she already hopes to go to Sudan and finish her studies in the capital city of Khartoum. The main reason why she would have to cross the border is the lack of post-primary school education in Chadian refugee camps due to insufficiency of teachers and funding.
In the meantime, UNICEF is committed to give her and her peers the best possible opportunity to fulfil their dreams.