By Doreen Bazio.

According to Uganda’s Education Response Plan for refugees and host communities launched in 2018, there is an average of 161 pupils per classroom in refugee hosting areas, three times more than the national standard. With 200-300 pupils per classroom, Nyumanzi II Primary School, has one of the worst scenarios. The school previously had 7 classrooms and currently has an enrollment of 2,200 with 2,000 of them refugees.

Through construction of a 2 classroom block, tree planting and installation of rain harvesting water tanks; Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP), has made a significant contribution towards averting this challenge. Indeed, this intervention at the school has reduced school dropouts, improving learning for especially slow learners, reduced congestion in classes and fights that arise from it, and improved access to safe water.

Chol Daniel, 37, the RWC II Secretary for Education, who was there during the project inception as far as 2014, says that project was initiated mainly to improve learning for pupils with little interest and ability in education.

“When we came in 2014, the population in the settlement was overwhelming and yet the facilities were inadequate. We also looked at the classroom available at the school and realized that with over 200 pupils, a teacher can’t critically identify slow learners and adequately support them to learn better.” Chol observes

Amamaru Patrick, 30, a teacher at the school, also observes that previously students used to take advantage of the congestion to escape from school, and dodge classes. He also reveals that amidst the congestion, some classrooms were leaking while some had their roofs blown.

“Although we would harvest rain water in the tank, the same heavy rains if it has strong winds would blow off some of the iron sheets for our classes mainly in the 2 blocks adjacent to the gate.” Amamaru says.

Rueth, 17, a pupil in Primary Seven says that construction of the classroom block has made learning enjoyable because the rooms are spacious and comfortable.

“In the new classroom, teachers can now notice everything we are doing because the classroom is not congested. It also gives us an opportunity to concentrate to what the teacher is saying because we are comfortable when learning.” Rueth acknowledges.

However, the school still faces some challenges. The school needs to improve its fencing to further reduce absenteeism of pupils and requires 2 blocks of staff quarters to accommodate its 24 teachers and dormitories so as to create opportunity for extra lessons that is likely to improve performance. 

Akuku Phillip Kaya, the Principal Education Officer, acknowledges that the district has many unfunded priorities which has been worsened by the refugees’ burden due to limited resources. He adds that the education department has always called upon partners to support but notes the unique contribution of DRDIP which uses a community led approach to recommend and initiate projects in refugee hosting areas.

According to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), as of January 2023, Adjumani was hosting 208,413 refugees. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement is home to 43,547, the camp with the highest number.