The Burundi Education Project was delivered as part of FH’s wider Returnee Reintegration Programme.
Context: Post-conflict, refugee reintegration
- To expand education opportunities for returnee and host community school-going children through the construction of schools and support of educational activities
- To reduce the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence through creative community awareness and preventative education campaigns
Why this project?
Following Burundi’s devastating civil war which ended in 2005, the country struggled to cope with the many challenges of reintegrating the high numbers of returnees from neighbouring countries. The challenges facing the returnees included illiteracy, poverty, lack of access to land and housing, and environmental degradation. These issues were even more of a challenge for returning women and girls who had to cope with caring for their families while burdened by limited access to resources, as well as the threat of sexual and gender-based violence.
Support for education, and the infrastructure in particular, emerged as a great need both for national reconstruction efforts and for the successful reintegration of returnees. 150,000 school-age children could not be absorbed in the 2006 school year and there was a demonstrable need for classroom construction throughout the country. Other factors included unqualified teachers, high student to teacher ratio (1:100 on average), inappropriate teaching programmes, geographic, regional and social disparities, inadequate attention to technical and vocational training, and poor organisation and weak institutional capacity for monitoring the sector.
From 2008 to 2012, FH assisted more than 72,000 Burundian refugee returnees in their repatriation through food security/livelihoods, primary education, environmental restoration, and SGBV-related activities. Specific to education and SGBV, this included:
Support for formal education
- Construction of eight primary schools (equipped with latrines, hand washing stations, rainwater catchment systems, teachers’ accommodation and school supplies)
- Recruitment and training of 49 teachers in partnership with the Ministry of Education
- Enrollment of 3,261 students in the constructed primary schools (nearly 50% female)
- In each school, FH helped to set up a parent-teacher association (PTA) to improve and increase parent and community involvement in the routine running of school affairs
In the final two years of the programme, FH also:
- conducted monthly SGBV awareness campaigns in project areas
- ran SGBV initiatives in secondary schools
- established and trained 31 community-based SGBV prevention committees
- trained 55 police officers and magistrates in SGBV prevention and response
- trained 12 women’s self help groups and provided funding for income-generation activities
For the SGBV-awareness activities in the secondary schools, FH Burundi’s SGBV officer held sessions with students at each school to provide information on SGBV, specifically in relation to the school/education context. The discussion topics included:
- the main causes of girl child dropouts (rape, unwanted pregnancy, boys taking advantage of the girls in school, teacher harassments)
- the importance of educating the girl child
- gender roles
- the role of teachers in SGBV
- the role of the students in curbing SGBV
The students were then asked to come up with different artistic expressions (including poems, dramas, songs and drawings or sketches) to describe the violence they experience within their communities in order to inform and sensitise their peers and community members about SGBV. FH held a competition with the theme of “Fighting and Preventing SGBV in Schools” where students presented their artistic expressions to the rest of the student body and a group of teachers awarded the best among the entries.
Engaging the local community
At the beginning of each project year, the FH team conducted an exercise in which beneficiaries were asked to map the resources that already existed in the community, encouraging active participation in the project. The beneficiaries were involved in all aspects of the programme, including programme design and start-up. Construction of the schools, teacher housing, latrines and water tanks were carried out by the local community. In addition, by working together for the common good, returnees and host community members created a space for peaceful exchange and sustainable co-existence. The systems set up at community level, including the PTAs, the SGBV prevention male committees and Mothers Care Groups, were also mechanisms that will remain in the community.
Interacting with national and local government
- Ministry of Solidarity – FH worked closely with this Ministry in matters related to SGBV. The CDF (Family Development) department validated the training curriculum and radio drama programmes, and were responsible for conducting the trainings.
- Ministry of Education, Provincial Director of Education (PDE) – FH worked with the PDE to select the sites for school construction and to ensure that the community was engaged in the activities of the project. The PDE was also responsible for ensuring that the required number of teachers were posted to the new school. The PDE office was also helpful in training the PTA and establishing the group.
- UNHCR – UNHCR provided FH with updated information on the status of refugees in Tanzania, and validated the number of returnees in the area.
“Most of the children had previously been learning outside under the shade of trees or had walked more than five miles to reach the school closest to their home. They expressed to us their joy that the distance they now walk is far less and it was clear that they cherished the opportunity to learn.”
FH Project visit
This project was delivered by Food for the Hungry