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Despite language barriers and trauma, Burundian refugee students continue secondary school in Rwanda

UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Kaburabuza
© UNICEF Rwanda/2018/Kaburabuza
Anne Anaïs Ndikuriyo, 16, Burundian refugee attending class at Mahama refugee camp, Rwanda.

By Isaie Kaburabuza

Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda, 3 October 2018  - Three years ago, Anne Anaïs Ndikuriyo arrived in Mahama Refugee Camp with her family. Anne Anaïs, a Burundian refugee, is now 16 years old now and is in her third year of secondary school at Paysannat L just outside of Mahama Camp. Although she is now thriving, it was not always this easy.

“I fled Burundi with my mother and elder sister due to civil unrest in my country. We left in 2015 after the election because the results were disputed and violence broke out,” said Anne Anaïs. “We arrived first in Nyanza District, but after two weeks we joined the other Burundian refugees going to Mahama Camp.”

Keen to regain some stability in her life, Anne Anaïs looked forward to resuming her education. She faced significant challenges at first as she was used to learning in French, but classes in Rwanda are taught in English. With some of her friends from Burundi, she found an English teacher and began taking English courses in the evenings.

“Now I can speak fluently,” she said. “My favourite subjects are science and mathematics. I think I am ready for my exams.”

With the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other partners, UNICEF has constructed additional classrooms at Paysannat L, a school in the Rwandan host community. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and the Ministry of Education to integrate all refugee students into the national school system.

“There are still a lot of drop outs,” Anne Anaïs continued. “Some of my peers stay home because they do not have parents and they need to stay in the camp to work and get food or clothes. Some of them are even pregnant or have babies, so they have to stay home and take care of them.”

Anne Anaïs is determined to overcome her circumstances. “When I finish school, I want to go to university, and then I will become a journalist or a banker.”

Mahama Camp hosts more than 56,000 Burundian refugees, who fled political instability in their home country. Almost half of those refugees - 46 per cent - are children. More than 20,000 of those children are enrolled in primary and secondary schools, and around 6,000 young children between the ages of 0 and 6 receive home-based or centre-based early childhood development services. UNICEF Rwanda also helps ensure routine immunisations for children under five, and helps provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to refugees in the camp.



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