YUMBE. Save the children has handed over a multi-billion classroom project to the office of the prime minister in Bidibidi Refugee settlement, Yumbe district.
The structures handed over include, 63classrooms, 105 Ventilated improved pit latrines and 16 teacher's houses.
Save the Children with funding from the German Government has been implementing a project that boosts refugee and host community education through improved infrastructure and quality learning.
Speaking during the handover ceremony at Yoyo primary school, Bidibidi zone III settlement on Thursday, Ms Vanlith Brechtge, the country director for save the children said with 232,718 South Sudanese refugees in Bidi bidi settlement Yumbe district, the capacity of schools to accommodate both refugee and host community learners became strained in the past five years as a result, children lack access to school and classrooms are crowded affecting the quality of learning in the district.
"All children have the right to quality basic education, regardless of where they live or who they are and Save the Children is committed to supporting children in accessing a conducive classroom setting. The five-year project aimed to ensure children enjoy their right to education through reduced class sizes and a conducive learning environment", she said.
She said the 63 additional classrooms have reduced the pupil-classroom ratio from 156:1 to a current average of 83:1 and the 1,026 desks distributed reduced the pupil-desk ratio to averagely 4:1 in the supported schools.
She added that Save the Children together with 14 other partners under the Uganda Education Consortium last year reached close to 300,000 refugee and host community children through continued and improved access to education and over 148,000 children received home learning materials with resources to enable them to study by themselves at home and recruited 1,875 teachers and 305 Classroom Assistants to support the home learning.
Ms Caroline Angolere, the Yumbe RDC said; "I want to request the district political leadership to support the education sector through community mobilisation and sensitisation on the roles of the parents in enhancing education of the children. I also encourage the school leadership to organise PTA meetings because when you enhance such meetings, you are able to interact with the parents and get to know the challenges they are facing on ground".
Mr Yassin Taban the Yumbe district chairperson said despite the massive infrastructural developments in the education sector, there are still challenges of staff accommodation and classrooms.
"Our teachers in the district commute from very far and yet lessons are supposed to start very early but at times the accommodation we have only caters for the headteachers and their deputies but the rest of the teachers don't have accommodation", he said.
"The classroom pupil ratio is still very high in the area ie 1:100 and the figures vary from one school to the other so there is need to put more funding to the education sector to construct more classrooms", he added.
Taban revealed that the government has already coded 9 health facilities in the settlement and the same should be done to the primary schools in the settlement so that their management will be easy in case the refugees go back their home country.
The German Ambassador, Mr Mathias Schaver said everywhere in the world displacement and forced migration present strong challenge to the host community.
He said to succeed in minimizing such effects, every society, government and individuals must do their part.
"We can only succeed if we join hands. Uganda has done a lot by developing and implementing progressive refugee and open door policy that has enabled approximately 1.5million refugees to settle peacefully and leave with the Ugandan people", he said.
"As you can see, our contribution towards this course has made a difference in the education sector in the district and more classrooms are yet going to be constructed in the third phase of the project", he added.
The minister for disaster preparedness and refugees Eng Hillary Onek said their intention is not to take over education but it's to complement the efforts of the ministry of education and sports.
"I want to inform the people in the ministry of education and sports that our interventions in schools are not because we wanted to takeover education. Don't mistake us taking over education but we are only doing intervention to support your efforts," the minister stressed.
"I know in your budget (ministry of education and sports), you can't even build these schools easily because there are so many schools that need your little money. UNHCR is currently paying teachers under Fin Church Aid which are managing the schools but although we have received the schools as Office of the prime minister, we cannot hand them over to you now because it's not in your budget to pay these teachers until you tell us that you are ready," he added.