YUMBE. Local leaders have raised concern over the inadequate number of secondary schools in Bidi bidi refugee camp in Yumbe district.

The leaders claim that much emphasis has been put on early childhood development (ECD) centres and primary schools thus ignoring secondary education.

Speaking during the world refugee day celebration at Bidi bidi refugee settlement last week, Mr Rashid Kawawa, the Kochi sub-county chairman said the only secondary school in zone two with its temporary structures can't help the big number of students in the area.

"I have already seen it as a serious challenge to only have one secondary school per zone in Bidi bidi refugee settlement. The education partners have put much emphasis on ECDs and primary schools but we have miserable secondary schools suffering here," he stressed.

Kawawa added: "If partners only invest money in ECDs, primary schools leaving out secondary schools, what reward will the refugees take back to South Sudan?"
He appealed to education partners in the camp to take secondary education a priority for refugees.

Ms Jane Alejo, the Ymbe district secretary for social services said there is no future for the over 6,000 students who are studying in the settlement if there are no better secondary school facilities in place.

"We have come out of emergency and it’s already 3years that secondary schools in the settlement are still in temporary structures aware that we also don't have clear sponsorships for the students," she said.

She appealed to the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UNHCR to see into it that scholarships are offered to the students and that they should improve on the status of the secondary schools so that when the refugees go back to South Sudan, they will be change agents.

Mr Michael Nabugere, the settlement commandant in OPM said the enrolment in the schools is big yet the number of classrooms, seating facilities, staffs and instructional materials are not enough across the five zones in Bidi bidi refugee settlement.

"Yes, it’s true that there is a problem in the education sector. In the settlement, the teacher-pupil ratio stands at 1:79 while classroom pupil ratio is 1:152 but in the developed countries, the average is 20 pupils per classroom so this is the current situation in Bidi bidi refugee settlement," he said.

Nabugere noted that the situation has led to high staff turnover and loss of quality staff in the settlement schools.

But Mr Joel Boutrue, the UNHCR country representative said the education sector has remained a very worrying sector in the settlement; be it ECD, primary or secondary level.

"We know that we are supposed to support the refugees and the host communities more. We are trying our best much as it's still not enough," Boutrue said.

"Despite the shortcomings, we have seen more investments and dynamism been created in the refugee-hosting districts. More classrooms have been opened in primary or secondary, it's slow but it's happening", he added.

He said in the near future, the challenges in the education sector will be addressed.