Nzomukunda, 11, lives in Kirundo, a province located in northern Burundi. Her parents can’t afford to buy school supplies for her and her four siblings. “I need pencils and notebooks to continue my education,” she says. Her father left her mother and her mother is trying hard to take care of the family.
The start of a new academic year in disadvantaged provinces is a challenging time for students and their parents.
With close to 65% of its population living below the poverty line, Burundi is among the poorest countries in the world, and despite having a good primary school net enrollment ratio – 94% – access to quality education is limited in this landlocked country.
A needed initiative
UNICEF, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education, launched a campaign called “Back to School” to help Nzomukunda and more than one million other children to get learning materials in seven of the most deprived provinces. Students in grade 4 living in Cankuzo, Kirundo, Makamba, Muyinga, Rumonge, Rutana and Ruyigi provinces received notebooks.
With financial support from GPE, 3.5 million textbooks have been distributed to all children enrolled in 7th and 8th grades in 2017.
“I will continue my education. I want to become a doctor to help people around me,” wishes Nzomukunda. She is in grade 4 in a classroom with 76 other students. In some other classrooms, more than 90 children come together to learn and build their future.
New classrooms were constructed for more than 800 children and they are no longer walking for three to five kilometers to reach the nearest school.
Improving the quality of education
The Back to School campaign supports the government in improving the quality of education, a major issue in Burundi. Teachers also have a critical role to play in improving learning outcomes. Strengthening their capacity will result in improving the quality of learning. To close the learning gap, teachers of Grade 9 received pedagogical teaching materials in every subject.
The campaign has also become a powerful first response and strategy to facilitate access to protective learning environments for thousands of children. By providing school kits (notebooks, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers and school bags), UNICEF ensures that children return to and stay in school in a difficult context.
The campaign aimed to intensify advocacy, communication and social mobilization efforts to attract governments, communities, children journalists, donors and partner organizations on the need to provide safe spaces and educational material to Burundian children.
Building schools, training teachers, advocating for girls’ education and reaching children at risk of dropping out of school: through all of these activities, UNICEF wants to make sure every child has access to a quality education in Burundi.