Olivia Garner IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools. International Refugee Trust is passionate about the importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending children to school and the […]
IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools.
International Refugee Trust is passionate about the
importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme
in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending
children to school and the enormous benefits and opportunities an education
provides. As another component of the programme, the Organisation for Community
Action (OCA), IRT’s partner, has established a scholarship scheme which pays
school fees for girls in StepUp communities. In northern Uganda, national
lockdown and the closing of schools has had a significant impact on children’s
studies. Students from rural areas, without internet access, are unable to
benefit from the remote online teaching embraced in other parts of the world.
At first, when schools closed it was a difficult adjustment for a lot of families. Many students were given holiday packages by their schools to complete whilst in lockdown, but the lockdown lasted a lot longer than anticipated. The students made other efforts to keep up with their studies by listening to remote education through the radio and having group discussions with classmates within their villages.
StepUp participant Martine told OCA’s trained experts on the ground that “as a result of schools being closed, some irresponsible men are taking advantage of this situation to marry off the girls in the village by telling them that COVID-19 will not end and that school will not open again. However, parents that received StepUp training are talking to their children on the dangers of early marriage and engaging them on agricultural activities to keep them busy.” Martine said the children have really helped with domestic work. They have been of great help in growing cabbages which were harvested this season, with part of the profits to be kept for school fees when school reopens.
Angella, a Senior Two student with a StepUp scholarship at Wisdom High School, testified that she has been able to complete her school work in addition to helping out with domestic work. When interviewed, she said, “My parents are giving me and my siblings enough time to revise our books which we do in the afternoon, late evening and very early in the morning at around 5:00am since we have lamps. At my school we were given a holiday package which I have completed.” She added, “I want to thank my parents for being so supportive towards our education by giving us enough time for holiday studies. And I also want to thank OCA too for sponsoring my studies.” Angella’s grandmother Faustina was pleased to see her sons helping Angella and her other grandchildren with school work. She said, “Seeing all this makes me so happy because even though the children are not at school, they are showing a positive attitude towards education that shall make a better future for them.”
Despite the lockdown adding another barrier to education,
especially for girls, it is rewarding to see that families in the StepUp
programme remain committed to the future generation having an education.
It is so inspiring to see the long-lasting impact that StepUp training has, and
it is hoped that the students are able to continue their education throughout
the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
Why I chose to write about refugees
January 29, 2020
Our new volunteer, Jonny Moynihan, looks at the way his dissertation on refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa has led him to work at IRT. Deciding the Topic When I was deciding what subject to write about for my dissertation in MSc -Security Studies at University College London, I wanted to choose an area […]
Our new volunteer, Jonny Moynihan, looks at the way his dissertation on refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa has led him to work at IRT.
Deciding the Topic
When I was deciding what subject to write about for my dissertation in MSc -Security Studies at University College London, I wanted to choose an area of politics which had been relatively untouched by academics compared to other areas such as the European Union and terrorism.
China and the Uighurs
It led to me wonder about other topics I could choose for my dissertation. I first thought I was going to do it on the link between oil and civil wars. However, it proved to be already vastly researched by academics. The next topic was the discrimination of the Uighur Muslim population by the Han Chinese central government in Xinjiang Province in the northwest of China. Nevertheless, in the end I didn’t end up doing my dissertation on the Uighur population because of the fear of being hacked by the Chinese government and the difficulty of not being able to speak Mandarin, which was a fairly major point come to think of it.
The Refugee Crisis in Europe
On the other hand, searching for another topic, which was both under researched and interesting enough for four months straight, I came across the topic of refugees. I knew virtually nothing about refugees apart from the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and refugee law around the world. At the same time, I thought about the refugee crisis, which was happening in the Mediterranean on islands of Italy and Greece. I had seen the refugee crisis in Europe across the mainstream media and realised that there must be the same issue in Africa. The reason for choosing Africa, and specifically Kenya and South Africa, was because they are English speaking countries with large economies and large refugee populations. Thus, I felt I could research something a bit outside of the box of doing something popular like the refugee crisis in the EU.
Dispelling the myths about refugees
I set about understanding as much I could about refugees and their lives along with their experiences in Kenya and South Africa. From the first moment, even in the first few academic articles and google searches, it completely changed my view on refugees and their daily lives of living in limbo, which became my dissertation title. The first few academic articles about refugee treatment in Kenya and South Africa really did dismiss all the myths I was seeing in the media about refugees being economic migrants, coming to the UK just to obtain benefits and ‘steal our jobs’.
Refugee Treatment in Camps
I began to understand that refugees weren’t as David Cameron put it; ‘a swarm’ as he had previously mentioned in a speech, rather that they were just people like you and me, fleeing war and violence to camps or cities in safer countries close to the warzone. I also started to realise that getting to camps wasn’t the end of their trauma of escaping conflict. I learnt about the fact that there is still communal conflict in the camps along with a host of other problems such as gender violence, corruption and inefficiency.
Moving onto IRT
After the process of writing my dissertation and dispelling all of the myths I had previously felt were right, I began to look at charities. At a humanitarian charity, I could put my dissertation research into practice, which led me to volunteer at International Refugee Trust. At IRT, I’m gaining experience about what charities are doing to help refugees in Africa, in states such as Uganda and South Sudan, where even less research academic research is focused.
My Work at IRT
My work at IRT involves writing content for their social media, and using my PR experience to help raise awareness of the current refugee crisis. I also write compelling content for IRT’s website, explaining how their work is so important to bringing thousands of refugees out of poverty. I’m currently working with their project partners on the ground, editing videos showing real stories of the current situation, stuff that the mainstream media simply aren’t broadcasting. I have been working closely with IRT’s Fundraising Manager Jessica Eames and their CEO Steven Smith MBE, learning how IRT works and why my work is so important. Being a volunteer has not only given me insight of the third sector but has been a hugely rewarding experience.