Heading back to school in Burundi

Nationwide distribution of school supplies gives Emeliane hope for further education

Jean-Sacha Barikumutima
Girl holds school supplies in front of her school
07 September 2021

Kirundo, Burundi – "Voilà! I received four notebooks, a pen, a pencil and a ruler," says Emeliane, 16, beaming.

It's the third day of the new school year. A kit of school supplies has just been distributed. In the courtyard of the Rutabo Basic School, excitement is in the air. You can also feel the joy in the classrooms. Emeliane is happy. Sitting in her fourth-grade class, she keeps showing her notebooks to her classmates.

On Monday, she came to school with only two notebooks and a pen. Her father, looking uncertain, told her to put on her last year's uniform and sent her to school, trying to reassure her that she would have more notebooks later. Emeliane immediately understood that there was not enough money to buy her school materials and would have to make do.

Father and daughter sitting inside a home

As soon as she arrived at school, she was worried that she would be kicked out of school when the teacher saw that she only had two notebooks. She knew that she could fail her year, like her brother who dropped out of school last year because of lack of fund.

Emeliane's family is very poor. Living not far from the school, in a displacement site with more than 1,900 households, her father and mother live mainly from farming. As one of eight children, Emeliane knows very well how difficult it is for her parents to feed them and provide for their school needs.

 Emeliane's family can't even afford to have a radio, which would have allowed her to listen to an advertisement, informing that there would be a nationwide distribution of school supplies kit. That is why, on the third day of school, when the news came, she was surprised and jumped out of joy. 

"With six notebooks now, I am able to attend classes while waiting for my father to find the remaining notebooks," she says. "My brothers also got materials. Dad will have to work hard to keep us in school," she concludes.

UNICEF is supporting a Back-to-School campaign in Burundi to improve access to school through material support with a school supply kit for vulnerable families like Emeliane. This year 2021, following the worsening context of household poverty with the COVID-19 pandemic and thanks to the support of the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF has been able to support more than 2.5 million school children like Emeliane with a school supply kit to enable them to go to and stay in school. 

By Jean-Sacha Barikumutima – Communication Officer, UNICEF Burundi