The Ministries of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, and Education, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have partnered to roll out an education strategy that will see refugee students access same education modules as nationals, including government-run 12-Year Basic Education programme.
This is the key pillar of the 2013-2016 education strategy for refugees in the country, aimed to integrate refugee students into the 12-Year Basic Education programme.
After conducting a joint assessment exercise, the three entities and other development partners found out that there is at least a school offering the 12-Year Basic Education in each of the 216 sectors countrywide, making it possible to roll out the programme to refugees.
Francois Abiyingoma, UNHCR’s national programme officer, said from the assessment exercise, it emerged that even in the sectors the refugee camps were located, there were schools offering 12-Year Basic Education although few refugees accessed upper primary education.
He said, currently, only a handful of refugees have access to A-Level education through various arrangements, including a Warren Buffett-funded project for girls’ education.
However, refugee children access nursery, primary and lower secondary education, Abiyingoma said.
“We realised that in all areas where refugees are located there is at least a school around that can offer 12-Year Basic Education. We discussed with sector education officers who expressed their willingness to assist to advocate for the upgrading of some of the schools close to the refugee camps to offer the programme under exceptional basis,” he said.
Schools around refugee camps offering 12-Year Basic Education will be empowered to accommodate the refugee students.
And, where only Nine-Year Basic Education programme is available, the schools will be upgraded under a special arrangement.
Abiyingoma added that under the new policy, they would avoid as much as possible running parallel programmes that were not in line with integrating the refugees into the existing national education structure.
“The refugees will be integrated in the national education structure and will follow the normal curricula as the rest of the Rwandan students,” the official said.
The policy would also include refugees living in urban centres such as the City of Kigali.
The strategic plan aims to have an enrollment rate of at least 75 per cent for lower secondary education and about 50 per cent of upper secondary education among refugees.
Abiyingoma said it was only through education that refugees would be empowered to get out of their current situation through self-reliance.
Antoine Ruvebana, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar), said under the arrangement, UNHCR will provide the necessary infrastructure, while Midimar will work with districts to employ qualified teachers.
“UNHCR will also provide their salaries, but they will go to the teachers through Midimar. All payments and finance arrangements done by UNHCR to local institutions will be done via an account in the ministry,” he said.
Ruvebana said Midimar was also engaged in advocacy for the roll-out of the education programme in all camps, adding that the Ministry of Education would then ensure that the refugee students have a normal curricula.
The process will, however, be done in phases due to budget constraints on the side of the implementing partners.
Dr Mathias Harebamungu, the State minister for primary and secondary education, said the programme had already began with a school in Kigeme Refugee Camp.
Dr Vincent Biruta, the minister for education, said the refugees had a right to education wherever they were and a process was ongoing to see to it that they were assured of education.
The number of targeted students is not yet established, but there are more than 70,000 refugees in the country, mainly from DR Congo.