My experience of education as a refugee

After fleeing violence in South Sudan, Seme arrived without his family in Uganda, where he was able to attend school in the Bidibidi refugee settlement. He talks about the many challenges refugee children like him face to pursue their education.

June 20, 2023 by Seme Luate Cons Lomoro, I CAN South Sudan
3 minutes read
Debate at Rockland Primary School on conflict resolution
Debate at Rockland Primary School on conflict resolution
Credit: I CAN South Sudan

My name is Seme Luate Cons, I am 22 years old and a refugee from South Sudan.

I had to flee my hometown Yei in 2016 due to conflict and it took me three days to reach the border. UNHCR officials picked me up and brought me to the camp where I live now.

I came to Uganda alone and I felt bad and stressed most times because I am separated from my siblings and distracted from school.

I completed my secondary education here in Uganda, and now I work with the organization I CAN South Sudan to support the wellbeing of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees, especially vulnerable children and women.

Today, on the International Day for Refugees, I would like to share my experience of going to school in the camp, which is the largest refugee settlement in Uganda, East Africa.

The settlement is divided into smaller units called zones and in each zone there are administrative units, which include the education sector. There are schools in each zone, which range from early childhood development centers and primary schools to secondary schools.

For the refugee children I work with, education is important because when we educate our children, we see a transformed nation.
Seme Luate Cons

Schools in Bidibidi refugee settlement were opened in September 2016 under the management of Windle International and in January 2019 Finn Church Aid took over.

Most of the schools are funded by UNHCR and supported by partners like Finn Church Aid and World Vision.

There are 29 schools in total in the 5 zones of the settlement. Seven of these are run by the government of Uganda. The schools provide a stable and safe environment for displaced children and youth like me, in which they can rebuild communities and pursue productive and meaningful lives.

For example there is a student named Oryem Paul Olur who finished his studies here in the camp and currently he is operating his business in the settlement.

Despite this support, the students face some big challenges:

  • The number of classrooms in primary and secondary schools is not sufficient to welcome all children, which leads to overcrowding and affects the performance of the learners.
  • The student-teacher ratio is high, making it difficult for the teachers to provide support to all learners.
  • School meals are not provided, which affects the performance of learners. Sometimes, students miss class as to go look for food.
  • Bidibidi has no electricity and learners therefore have a lot of difficulty to study or read at night after classes.

As we commemorate World Refugee Day, my plea is for every child, regardless of status, to be provided with a conducive learning environment.

Education is a human right. Displaced children have the right to a better education.

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