Burundi has experienced a series of crises whose consequences are still evident in various sectors, including education. According to a UNICEF report, the Burundian population is affected by natural disasters (related in particular to climate change), which were recently compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country is also grappling with other recurring, endemic diseases such as cholera and malaria. This situation significantly hampers school attendance.
Several towns have reported many new arrivals in recent months: families that fled floods in their areas of residence or are returning from exile as a result of frequent social and political crises in the country.
To support the country’s efforts in ensuring learning continuity during emergencies, building back better, and enhancing children's integration in the education system, GPE has provided US$9.38 million in accelerated funding to Burundi. The grant supports the PACASU-TUBARAMIRE program, implemented in partnership with UNICEF, which serves as the grant agent.
Boosting the resilience of the education system
The sector faces a host of challenges, including substandard school infrastructure, limited access to education, and subpar quality of education during emergencies.
School infrastructure needs are enormous: during the 2021-2022 school year alone, more than 1,500 classrooms were destroyed by bad weather. According to a Ministry of Education and Scientific Research (MENRS) official, "to attain a ratio of 50 students per teacher in each classroom, the country needs at least an additional 32,000 new classrooms."
Population growth in host communities exerts pressure on school infrastructure and heightens the need for new facilities. Ferdinand Muheto Wintare, principal of the Bumwe Basic School in Buterere (near Bujumbura, the capital) notes that "this area is often hit by floods that sometimes compel children in neighboring communities to leave their school and join ours. Sometimes even we are so badly affected by flooding that we have to discontinue classes."
Hence the relevance of programs such as PACASU-TUBARAMIRE, aimed at enabling all children to continue to exercise their right to education in the face of emergencies. However, while building schools is great, creating child-friendly learning environments, to make children feel truly comfortable, safe and secure, is even better.
Improving the learning environment and ensuring uninterrupted school attendance during emergencies
Activities financed by the program include classroom construction and rehabilitation, installation of handwashing facilities, and connection of the schools to water supply systems in the communes.
Since the start of the program on February 1, 2021, 103 classrooms have been built (plus separate toilets for boys and girls in each school); and 750 classrooms damaged by flooding and other weather events are being rehabilitated.