Education is an assurance of future for refugee girls

Girls walking to school in Uganda.
Particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements, education is one of the key elements to secure better future. Photo: FCA

Education is an assurance of future for refugee girls

Finn Church Aid (FCA) promotes access to quality education, particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements.

EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT. It is essential to the acquisition of knowledge. More than that, education makes us more resilient and independent individuals. Finn Church Aid (FCA) promotes access to quality education, particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements.

Education can have a life-changing consequences for girls especially. Girls like Anthias Poni Oliver. When violence broke out in her homeland, Anthias and her family were among thousands of South Sudanese who escaped to Uganda in search of safety and peace. Anthias lives in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo District, Uganda.

However, like so many girls with refugee background, it has been a struggle for Anthias to stay in school. While still in secondary school, she got pregnant and had to drop out of school for a while.

“Anthias’ father refused to take her back to school after finding out she got pregnant and had terminated the pregnancy. He told her to stay home and forget about school,” says Juru Cicilia, Anthias’ mother.

“I was sad because I loved school and knew I would not be able to complete my studies,” says Anthias herself.

South Sudanese Anthias Poni Oliver dreams of becoming a doctor one day to be able to help her community. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Helping refugee girls stay in school

Education equips girls like Anthias with the skills they need to unlock their potential. Finn Church Aid ensures safe, inclusive schools with quality teaching for everyone with support from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (PRM). FCA creates safe, environmentally friendly learning environments and school structures.

“With the support of Finn Church Aid, I was enrolled in Idiwa secondary school to complete my studies. My favourite subjects are Christian religious education and mathematics,” Anthias adds.

Making a study plan and managing her schedules, a skill she learned during a career guidance session, made her improve on her studies and catch up on lost time.

FCA creates safe, environmentally friendly learning environments and school structures such as Idiwa secondary school in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo District, Uganda. Project was supported by Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (PRM). Photo: Linda Kabuzire

“Before I used to only read my books at school, but now I revise at home especially on weekends. This has really improved my learning.”

“They also give me school materials, soap and menstrual hygiene kits, and during the reproductive health lessons they teach us how to use the menstrual kits.”

Dreaming of future

Education is important to Anthias because it will create employment opportunities for her in the future. She hopes to be a doctor when she finishes school.

“I have seen many people in my area self-medicating and some have ended up dying. I want to become a doctor so I can be able to give them proper treatment,” she says.

Anthias’s inspiration is Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s wife.

“She was very hard working and never lost hope even when the husband was in prison. I hope to be like her.”

Text: Linda Kabuzire

FCA hands over newly constructed school facilities in Ugandan refugee settlement

FCA hands over newly constructed school facilities in Ugandan refugee settlement

Finn Church Aid’s staff tour the newly constructed Yangani Secondary School with members of the local community.

Finn Church Aid built the infrastructure in Bidibidi refugee settlement under the Lasting Education Achievements Responding to Needs (LEARN) project with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM).

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) has handed over newly constructed secondary school infrastructure and facilities to the local government and beneficiaries in Bidibidi refugee settlement, a move that will improve education prospects for both local and refugee youths in the West Nile Region of Uganda.

The school structures were handed over by the FCA Yumbe Area Manager, Mr Michael Tayebwa, to Ms Jesca Ongiertho, the Deputy Chief Administration Officer, Yumbe district.

Among the facilities handed over was a completely new school called Yangani Secondary school. FCA also supported four existing secondary schools with new structures. FCA constructed three classroom blocks, two staff accommodation blocks, one administration block, a library block, and sanitation facilities for Yangani Secondary school.

Yangani Secondary school was built in response to the lack of secondary education opportunities in refugee settlements.

The project also included two classroom blocks, two staff accommodation blocks, one administration block, one library block and sanitation facilities for Kado Secondary school; two staff accommodation blocks and sanitation facilities for Yoyo Secondary school; and one block of sanitation facilities for Highland and Nipata Secondary schools.

The new library at Yangani Secondary school.

“Bidibidi has few schools that provide secondary education, and the distances between them are significant. By strengthening secondary education, we enable refugees and youths from the host community to attain higher education”, Tayebwa says.

Finn Church Aid built the infrastructure under the Lasting Education Achievements Responding to Needs (LEARN) project with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM). These, according to FCA will increase access to safe and inclusive secondary learning environments for refugee and host population learners in Bidibidi refugee settlement and surrounding areas.

The LEARN project, now reaching the end of its second phase, aims to increase and improve equitable and inclusive quality education for refugee and host community children and adolescents in Bidibidi, Palorinya, Kyaka II and Rwamwanja refugee settlements.

Finn Church Aid promotes access to and delivery of quality education and systems-strengthening, closely linked with Uganda’s National Education Response Plan and Education Sector Strategic Plan. Access to education is promoted by supplying scholastic materials and teaching instructional materials and improving learning environments through the construction of school infrastructures, such as teacher accommodation units, classrooms, latrines, and teacher remuneration.

Learners will use single-seater desks at Yangani Secondary school.

Ugandan Youths and Refugees Trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Ugandan youths and refugees trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Finn Church Aid with partner Enabel has provided Ugandan and refugee youth in Palorinya settlement with necessary business understanding and vocational skills to find opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

The war in South Sudan forced Alex Lojuan, 27, to flee his home and settle in Palorinya Refugee settlement, located in Obongi district in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda. He is one of the 512 youth that enrolled for the GIZ-ENABEL funded project implemented by Finn Church Aid (FCA) in the Palorinya refugee settlement.

“My father died during the war and as the eldest child in the family, I had to take on the mantle of providing for the family. These were the hardest moments of my life, fending for a family in a foreign land,” Alex says.

Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement
Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Alex started laying bricks for income and later got the opportunity to work with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as a casual worker, distributing soap to refugees during the monthly distribution of food rations and household items in settlements. While at LWF, he received information about the FCA Business and Technical Vocational Education Trainings (BTVET).

“As luck would have it, I was enrolled as one of the FCA business skills trainees. Although, I am yet to finish the business training course, what I have learned so far in the first two modules has instilled in me a positive mindset for success,” Alex says.

Enhanced youth employability

The project ‘Promoting Youth Employability through Enterprise and Skills Development’ (PROYES) began in October 2019 and ended in May 2021. It sought to enhance profitable employment opportunities for refugee and host community youths through skills training and business development support, by equipping the youth with demand-driven vocational and business skills for fluent transition into working life in employment or self-employment.

During the project, FCA trained and mentored young people in Business Start-up and Management and in vocational skills like hairdressing, sandal making, carpentry, tailoring and building construction.

Backed by the training and skills received from the FCA business class training, in March 2020 Alex started up a retail business with the money saved from bricklaying and casual work.

“I used my 300,000 Ugandan Shillings savings to start a retail shop in Odraji Village, Zone 1 in Palorinya settlement. Within seven months, my business capital had doubled. This is in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic situation that has affected most businesses,” Alex says.

“I run my shop with proper business principles learned during the FCA training. I have a business plan, I negotiate with suppliers to get the best deals, practice marketing of my goods, and deliver great customer service in my business,” he adds.

Alex earns a weekly profit of over 30,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) and with this money, he is able to take care of his extended family.  He also bought bicycle for himself and put up a temporary structure that houses his retail shop.

Linking learning to earning

In a bid to increase employability chances of the youth trained, FCA provided start-up kits to the trainees who completed the course. The organisation also linked the trainees to available employment opportunities.

By end of the project period, 153 trainees, including 86 males and 67 females, were employed either by the private sector entities where they had attended industrial training or became self-employed.

Gordon Chiria, a 26-year-old Ugandan living in Obongi town managed to set up his dream business after the training.

“I used to grow and sell maize and other crops to support my family.  This business wasn’t successful because I failed to maintain it. After FCA’s training, I started a retail business with a capital of UGX 300,000. Currently I make sales worth UGX 80,000 per day and much more on market days,” Gordon says.

Using his business profits, Gordon managed to buy two goats and support his family. He plans to expand his business to both retail and wholesale. “I appreciate Enabel and FCA’s efforts towards making the livelihood of Obongi community youths better,” he adds.

Focus also on young women’s skills

The project also supported female youths. More than half, 53 % of all beneficiaries were females that benefited from the six skills trades under the project.

FCA supported female participation by establishing four child daycare centres and also facilitated customised career guidance, counselling and life skills training to enable female trainees appreciate the trainings and build their resilience to complete the course.

Esther Kuyang, 25-year-old South Sudanese refugee came to Palorinya refugee settlement with her family in January 2017. “My family and I were depending on the limited resources provided by World Food Programme. The food rations provided were not always enough, yet it was quite hard to get supplementary food due to lack of a source of income,” she recounts.

“While I was still pondering about what to do to take care of my family, FCA came to my aid. With their support, I enrolled for a business entrepreneurship course at Belameling Vocational Training Centre,” Esther tells.

“I had previously been trained by FCA in sandal making. Due to the lack of start-up capital, I was yet to put that skill into practice. During the business training under the FCA-Enabel project, I learned that my real capital was my brain. I immediately started to think of ways to get capital to rejuvenate my previously acquired skills of sandal making.”

Esther Kuyang making sandals in her workshop.
Esther Kuyang a south Sudanese refugee making sandals in her workshop in Chinyi village, Zone 1, Palorinya refugee settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire.

“In mid-July 2020, I got a loan of UGX 170,000 from my friend and bought some basic materials such as rubber, thread, beads, for starting a sandal making business. With the business skills acquired in the training like record keeping, marketing and proper accounting, my business started growing. Within two months, I grew my business capital to UGX 200,000. On average, I earn a profit of UGX 28,000 weekly. I am still paying off my loan and I will keep reinvesting the profits in the business. I am also saving with Vision Savings Group, our FCA–Enabel Internal lending group,” she adds.

Esther is the chairperson of the savings group that was formed in January 2020 under the support of FCA-Enabel project. So far she has saved 75,000 shillings with this group. She also bought a bicycle, which facilitates her movements. Esther plans to buy more tools and equipment’s for sandal making, especially those that she currently lacks. She also plans on expanding the business and opening more branches in other trading centres to generate more income.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Innovative and Inclusive Accelerated Education Programme Launched to Support Children in Refugee and Host Communities In Uganda

Education Programme Launched to Support Children in Refugee and Host Communities In Uganda

Uganda’s State Minister for Primary Education Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu signs the INCLUDE banner to officially launch the project. Photo: FCA.

As children in Uganda remain out of school, the Uganda Education Consortium, the European Union Humanitarian Aid and the Government of Uganda, are working together to implement the Education Response Plan for refugees and host communities, and support equitable access to education in refugee and host communities.

The Uganda Education Consortium, together with the European Union and the Government of Uganda, have launched the second phase of the INCLUDE initiative (Innovative and Inclusive Accelerated Education programme) for refugees and the host communities. This consortium will support children in refugee and host communities to access safe, quality and inclusive learning opportunities, support safe return to school and ensure the psycho-social well-being of learners.

Fifteen million children in Uganda have been affected by COVID 19 related school closures. This includes at least 600,000 primary and secondary aged refugee learners. More than 275,000 out of school primary and secondary school aged children have also been affected. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic and prolonged periods of absence from school will increase the likelihood that children will not return to school when they open.

INCLUDE will respond to the current context over a period of 21 months in Kyaka 11, Kyangwali, Nakivale Imvepi and Rhino Camp refugee settlements. Through the project, the consortium will work closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR and communities to ensure that all children can return to school as soon as possible in a safe manner. This will be achieved by prioritising the provision of additional safe learning spaces, recruitment of additional teachers and the expansion of the double shift approach while preparing for schools to reopen, as foreseen by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health’s Standard Operating Procedures.

Representatives from the Education Consortium pose for a group picture with the State Minister for Education. Photo: FCA,

Better access to remote learning opportunities

The INCLUDE consortium will ensure safe, equitable and inclusive access to remote learning opportunities, including through innovative approaches such as Can’t Wait To Learn and, thereby, contribute to continuity of learning. The project will help ensure that children who often miss out on school are supported through activities that focus on their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, support to children with disabilities and young mothers, and cash for education transfers that remove social economic barriers access.

“The EU is proud to renew its engagement in the Ugandan refugee education sector through Phase 2 of the INCLUDE programme. This project will contribute to increased safe access to quality education to out of school children living in refugee hosting areas, improving their wellbeing. Every year, the EU allocates up to 10% of its global humanitarian budget to education projects around the world.” Said Bruno Rotival, Head of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office in Uganda.

Education protects children from poverty, violence and abuse and helps them laugh, learn, eat, play and grow. For this reason, the Education Consortium and its partners believe that education cannot wait and look forward to enabling children in refugee and host communities to continue their education.

The Education Consortium led by Save the Children, has 15 members who implement projects, funded by ECHO and Education Cannot Wait, that contribute to the implementation of the Education Response Plan(ERP) for refugees and host communities. The ERP is the first of its kind worldwide and was developed to help respond to the huge needs in what is Africa’s biggest refugee education crisis.

About the INCLUDE project and the Uganda Education Consortium

INCLUDE will be implemented by Save the Children, Finn Church Aid, Nowergian Refugee Council, War Child Holland and Humanity and Inclusion, under the leadership of the Uganda Education Consortium Management unit. Partners will work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Unites Nations High Commission for Refugees and the district governments.

The project is supported with generous funding of EUR 7,000,000 from the EU.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Finn Church Aid has been providing refugee youth in Uganda business and Technical Vocational Education Training. Their pre-exiting skills were diverse but overall, the programme has provided many with necessary capacities to provide for themselves in the future.

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) promotes vocational education and entrepreneurship among women and young people in Uganda, a country that has taken in more than a million refugees from its neighbouring countries. No other country in Africa hosts more refugees than Uganda. The majority of them are children and youth who have arrived with varying educational backgrounds and skills to start earning their own living in time to come.

In early 2020, the pandemic had a tremendous impact on self-employment in Uganda. A survey conducted by the UN Capital Development Fund showed that around half of self-employed people fell below the poverty line after one month of lockdown. Fortunately, by the end of the year, the situation was showing signs of improvement.

The work in Kyaka Refugee Settlement is based on FCA’s Linking Learning to Earning (LL2E) approach, establishing functional links between Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the world of work. FCA Uganda has been implementing BTVET programmes in other Ugandan refugee settlements for several years already. During 2020, 1,925 young people in total received Business and Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) in FCA Uganda country programme.

Our trainees and graduates from Kyaka Refugee Settlement share their experiences and thoughts below.

Bashimbe smiles while braiding a client's hair.

Bashimbe Banzuzi, 17

Bashimbe fled the DRC for Uganda in 2018. “There was no peace,” she says. “We couldn’t sleep as we were constantly afraid of what the night would bring.” She arrived with her grandparents and two sisters. Bashimbe is now two weeks into her hairdressing course with FCA and is excited for the future. “I love hairdressing because I know there is demand for it,” she says. “After finishing this course I will be able to support my family. Right now there is no one else who is earning money.”

Charles sits on the ground repairing a motorcycle.

Charles Biyoik, 18

Charles arrived in Uganda from the DRC in 2019. He came alone. “Life was too hard and I wasn’t studying,” he says. In the DRC Charles had a no-skill job in a restaurant. When he arrived in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement he heard an radio advertisement for vocational training and decided to pursue a course in motorcycle repair. “Hopefully, I will one day open my own garage.”

Erian sewing.

Erian Tuyisenge, 17

Erian has lived in Kyaka all her life. Her parents fled Rwanda in 1997, passing through Tanzania before settling in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement. “I was sitting at home doing nothing,” she says. She has just begun a 6 month tailoring course at the FCA’s Vocational training centre. “I know tailoring will provide me a future as there is always demand. So you can earn a lot of money.”

Beni doing another woman's hair in a saloon.

Beni, 21

Beni (standing) arrived in Uganda with her sister after fleeing violence and the murder of their parents in the DRC. “I had very little skills in hairdressing, but when I heard about the program, I knew I wanted to take part so I can help my family,’ she says. Beni and sister Rose went through the training together and in December 2019 they decided to open up a little salon in Kyaka settlement. “Even if we get one or two customers a day we are able to buy some soap, and some food.”

Beni looks to the distance.

Skills are important especially for girls because many, Beni says, are involved in prostitution. “If they have skills, girls can focus on improving their lives and their family’s lives.”

Prince working on a field with others.

Prince Mushesa, 22

Prince crossed the border alone, arriving in Uganda from the DRC in 2019 after rebels had kidnapped his family. When Prince heard from his neighbours that is was possible to study agriculture he was excited as he felt that it was a skill that could help him in the future. “I have been taught new techniques that I didn’t know before,” he says. FCA continues to supports students once they graduate by providing small plots of land for the students to continue to practice their farming. And of course whatever they grew, they keep.

Priska looking lovingly at a baby sitting next to her.

Priska Kabira, 19

Priska is one of many students who are also young mothers. To support their learning, daycare is provided by the school. For Priska, who is studying Tailoring, this has meant she can spend more time in the classroom. “If they didn’t have daycare it would be very difficult. I would have to take her to the classroom and every time she cried I would have to tend to her.” Priska has been in Uganda for four years after fleeing the DRC with her family out of fear of being kidnapped by rebels.

Sonia baking wearing an FCA apron and cook's hat.

Sonia Kalombola, 21

Sonia fled to Uganda with her family in 2010 due to conflict between families that left her uncle murdered. The family first settled in Kampala, capital of Uganda. Urban refugees are expected to be self-reliant but the high costs of living forced the family to Kyaka II where the family now resides. Sonia is currently studying Catering. “I love catering. I love to cook and bake. I hope to be a professional in the future and open a hotel and help others to learn about catering.”

Isabela showing a beautiful top she has made.

Isabela Kabuwo, 23

Isabela settled in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in 2017 after war forced her to flee the DRC with her family. When she heard about the tailoring course offered by FCA she jumped at the chance. Fast forward to 2021 she now works alongside two other fellow graduates in a small tailoring business on the busiest street in Kyaka. “When we work as a group, we work better,’ she says. Isabela currently rents her sewing machine but is hoping to pay it off in the next couple of months.

Yvonne on a lush field.

Yvonne Ishimye, 19

Yvonne arrived in Uganda in 2017 after fleeing violence in the DRC with her family. Yvonne was already studying agriculture in the DRC and when she was determined to finish her studies however the costs of schooling were too prohibitive. When she learned that FCA offered a course in Agriculture to refugees it filled her with tremendous excitement. “When I was practicing agriculture in the DRC it wasn’t in my heart, but when I came to Uganda it became my ambition,” she says. Since graduating, Yvonne now plants tomatoes not far from her family’s house. Every five months she harvests her tomatoes earning enough money to buy new seeds and provide for her whole family.

Shukuru sitting outside working on metal with a friend in the background.

Shukuru Misago, 20

Shukuru fled to Uganda when as a child with his entire family. In 2020 Shukuru was successful in securing a place in motorcycle repair at the FCA Vocational Training Center in Kyaka II. “There are so many boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis) where I live so I knew there would be a market. Now that I am working and own my own garage I can get everything I need to support my family,” he says. He has grown up seeing FCA’s impact in the settlement. “I want to see other refugees benefit from this programme the way I have benefited.”

Text: Nora Luoma and Erik Nyström
Photos: Hugh Rutherford

Teacher trainings progress refugee learners’ performance in Uganda

Teacher trainings progress refugee learners’ performance in Uganda

Teachers in schools that host refugees often walk into the toughest classrooms. A single classroom often contains many learners from different backgrounds. These have in one way or another been affected by violence in their home countries, seen their homes destroyed and their relatives injured or killed.

Susan Angwao, a teacher at Daedun Palorinya secondary school in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo district, says her first weeks as a new teacher at the school were quite challenging.  

“Some of the students were stubborn, loud and hyperactive. Others had short tempers and made the classroom chaotic. It was quite hard to get them to pay attention in class.  Now I am able to handle them appropriately,” Angwao says.

Angwao received a Teacher’s in Crisis Context (TiCC) training for newly recruited teachers. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) training equips teachers with knowledge and skills on teacher management, professional development, and recognition of the relationship between teacher well-being and students’ social and emotional development.

A man standing in front of a field.
Japeth Joel Jomaring, Head Teacher at Idiwa Secondary School says better teaching skills have led to the improved performance of the school. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Providing psychosocial support for teachers and learners

Refugee children are vulnerable to the effects of traumatic events arising from conflict and displacement.

“Traumatised students usually isolate themselves in class, stay very quiet, and don’t follow instructions. Our teachers have received mental health and psychosocial support training and can identify children who are suffering psychologically and give them guidance and counselling accordingly. This has helped them improve on their concentration in class and get better grades,” says Zainabu Atim, the Head Teacher of Ariwa Secondary school in Bidibidi refugee settlement.

Atim noted that some of the teachers are also refugees who have experienced trauma and need psychosocial support in order to be able to help the children.

A woman sitting at a desk in front of a blackboard.
Zainabu Atim, the Head Teacher of Ariwa Secondary school. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

FCA has trained over 120 teachers in Mental Health & Psychosocial Support and also participated in the Retooling of Teacher & Learning Circle peer mentors, reaching out to over 24 teachers.

The learning circles consider the organisation of course documents for teachers, e.g. Syllabus and Topics, creating opportunities for problem-solving, interconnected learning tasks, constant feedback, and ongoing change in course delivery.

Japeth Joel Jomaring, the Head Teacher at Idiwa Secondary School in Palorinya refugee settlement, says he has seen a significant improvement in the learners’ performance.

“The teachers have been equipped with better teaching skills and methods. In just three years, the performance of Idiwa SS has improved, and we are among the best performing schools in the region,” Jomaring says.

“Teachers require continuous training and capacity building opportunities to help them develop, get new skills and find solutions to problems they encounter in the classroom,“ he adds.

Teacher trainings are carried out with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Text: Linda Kabuzire

FCA takes a step towards localisation by forming a Global Leadership Team

FCA takes a step towards localisation by forming a Global Leadership Team

Mies puhuu mikrofoniin ruohokentällä, yleisöä ja valkoisia telttakatoksia taustalla.
Country Director for Uganda Wycliffe Nsheka addresses the graduates at Finn Church Aid’s graduation ceremony for from the Business and Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) at Rwamwanja refugee settlement. Photo: Michele Sibiloni.

FCA’s Board of Directors has appointed three representatives of FCA’s programme countries to its newly formed Global Leadership Team (GLT) in June. The GLT is part of FCA’s new organisational structure that came into force on April 1, 2021, and the term of the representatives is 2+1 years.

Country Director of South Sudan Mr Berhanu Haile, Country Director of Nepal Ms Sofia Olsson, and Country Director of Uganda, Mr Wycliffe Nsheka will be starting in their new roles in August. Permanent member of the Global Leadership team are Executive Director Jouni Hemberg and Deputy Executive Director Tomi Järvinen.

The GLT will have a significant role in strategic decision-making in FCA’s new organisational structure that aims to serve better the people FCA works with and emphasise accountability. Having a multi-skilled Global Leadership Team with diverse field experiences will improve FCA’s work, says Wycliffe Nsheka.

“Development cooperation has taken a major shift whereby the focus now is to promote mutual learning. I have been in the sector for 20 years, and there has been talk of localisation for a long time, but there is still work to be done in bringing it to practise”, Nsheka continues.

The new GLT will be committed to making localisation a reality and supporting the Global South to strengthen ownership and sustainability. Berhanu Haile says that the new management model is a significant step towards heeding local knowledge and experience to inform strategic decision-making.

“This is a significant step towards localisation while at the same time transforming FCA to be a global organisation that embraces views from North and South,” says Haile.

“The approach will ensure that we strategically respond to the rights and needs of the marginalised people with whom we work,” says Sofia Olsson.

Innovative approaches bring refugee children back to school in Uganda

Innovative Approaches Bring Refugee Children Back to School in Uganda

Finn Church Aid, with funding by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), implements a condensed curriculum that allows refugee children who have not been able to attend school for long periods to catch up with their lost school years in Ugandan refugee settlements. Education helps to protect girls from early marriages.

Joyce Bisimwa, 17, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, came to Uganda with her parents and siblings in 2016. The hardship and lack of money for school fees forced her to drop out of school when she was on grade six in primary school and she spent years without education.

In 2019, of the 47,470 refugee children in Kyaka II refugee settlement only one in four were enrolled in primary school. Joyce was relieved when she could enrol in the Accelerated Education Program (AEP) in Bukere Primary School to catch up on her lost years.

Joyce, her father and brother smiling outdoors in the sun.
Joyce, her father Bisimwa Dieudonne and her brother Charme outside their home in Kyaka II settlement.

“I was very happy when I was allowed to return. The teachers here are so nice, and I feel happy when I see myself sitting in a class like this,” Joyce says.

To speed up the learning of youth like Joyce, the programme uses a specially designed and condensed version of the Ugandan curriculum. By covering two to three grades of primary education in one year and using teaching methods appropriate for different age groups, learners who have lost many school years can transition into the formal schooling system.

“We cannot leave girls behind, and I see a good future in Joyce. I know she will be a good influence on her other siblings,” says Joyce’s father Bisimwa Dieudonne.

Education for refugee girls a priority

The AEP programme is an integral part of the INCLUDE (Innovative and Inclusive Accelerated Education) project. Finn Church Aid (FCA) implements the programme in Kyaka, Bidibidi and Omugo refugee settlements in Uganda as part of an education consortium led by Save the Children and funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).

One of the priorities is to support girls’ education. Under the project, 3,318 female learners in the three settlements have returned to school through the AEP. In Kyaka, additional 2,696 were able to return through Education in Emergencies cash support.

FCA trains teachers to ensure that learners receive inclusive, quality education. Felix Tumwesigye, an AEP teacher at Bukere Primary School, underwent various trainings from curriculum interpretation and teacher learning circles to child protection. Tumwesigye has seen many girls struggle to access menstrual hygiene materials, and girls also face concerns like teenage pregnancies and marriages. Girls have fewer role models in school, especially among teachers, and some parents prefer to support the education of the sons rather than the daughters, he says.

Felix Tumwesigye points to something on the blackboard and looks back at his students.
Felix Tumwesigye thinks education is particularly important for girls.

The project provides menstrual hygiene materials to all girls to prevent them from missing classes, and learners also receive scholastic materials. They can attend classes without fear of being sent away due to unpaid school costs or the lack of uniforms.

“Education is especially important for girls; it gives them a future and prevents them from being forced into early marriage,” says Tumwesigye.

Learning made fun and engaging

The project aims to make learning fun, engaging and more effective for learners in lower AEP levels and primary through innovative technology-based solutions for quality education. The component called Can’t Wait to Learn give learners access to tablets loaded with interactive games that help teach literacy and numeracy using the Ugandan lower primary curriculum.

A girl sits on the ground studying with a tablet.
Tablets provided by War Child Holland make learning effective and engaging.

A series of recreational activities under the name of Team Up has been designed to reduce the stress that refugee children experience as a result of war. Many of these children create new social contacts or friends through such activities and strengthen their social and emotional well-being.  School attendance has also been boosted through the Team Up activities.

The closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic created sadness in many of the girls at Bukere Primary School. Lillian Kemigisa, 14, thought that she would not return and was relieved when the schools reopened.

“I feel safe like I have never felt before. I feel so happy because of the good teachers and the quality of education I receive here”, she says.

During distance learning, FCA together with other partners provided over 8,000 learners in Kyaka with home learning materials and distributed over 1,400 radios in the community.

 “Studying from home helped me so much, but I felt happier when school resumed so that I could be with my friends again”, says Abigael, another girl from Bukere Primary School.

Bukere emerged as the best school in Uganda in 2019 in using tablets for learning and was rewarded with computers for the teachers. In a bid to support the increased number of children enrolling in school, more teachers have been recruited, trained and given instructional and learning materials. Fully furnished classrooms have also been set up, teacher’s accommodation built and gender-segregated latrines provided for learners and teachers.

Florence sits in the classroom laughing.
Education is important to Florence, 16, because it will create employment opportunities for her in the future. “If I become a doctor, I can advise people in the villages on how to live healthy lives.”

Through the project’s innovative approaches and other education initiatives in Kyaka, primary school enrollment increased from 12,161 learners in 2019 to 23,075 in 2020.

“I feel very happy that these girls are back to school. They had lost all hope of education before we had this programme,” Tumwesigye says.

BackgroundSupporting education in Uganda’s refugee settlements

The INCLUDE project is implemented by a consortium of Save the Children, Finn Church Aid, War Child Holland and Norwegian Refugee Council, funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).

Since 2018, 3,410 children and youth in Kyaka and 2,418 children in Omugo and Bidibidi refugee settlements have been able to enrol back to school through the AEP programme.

With Education in Emergencies (EiE) cash for vulnerable school-aged children, a total of 5,871 children have been supported in Kyaka II, out of which 4,902 enrolled in primary school.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Photos: Hugh Rutherford

Digital solutions can increase access to education in developing countries

Education has long moved towards a more digital age in most developed countries, and the Covid-19 pandemic has pressured societies to adopt even more remote working and learning tools. Both digital skills and the availability of online services are constantly expanding and improving, but the process is different in poor and fragile environments.

FCA is working towards more digitalised approaches in education projects in Africa and Asia, and the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for new solutions. A year ago, FCA’s Coordinator of Innovations Pasi Aaltonen surveyed the pandemic’s effects on the education sector.

“Education professionals at FCA were already making use of technology in education projects in many ways. The digitalisation of education was developing through platforms such as Zoom and Teams, television and radio,” Aaltonen says.

Projects currently utilise simple technologies. Radios are convenient in countries where the means for telecommunication are either underdeveloped or out of reach for low-income families.

In Kenya, FCA distributed radios with memory card slots that enable learners to record lectures broadcasted on local radio, ultimately supporting pupils with revising the classes. Radio education guidelines were developed in the process and shared with colleagues in other countries.

Etualalla radio, jota penkillä istuvat neljä lasta kuuntelevat ja kirjoittavat vihkoon.

Children attending a radio lecture in Uganda. Photo: Hugh Rutherford

In Cambodia and Myanmar, computers and smart devices are used in the training of teachers and career counsellors. The career counselling trainers recorded video material that was further distributed in chats and Facebook groups and also shared by Cambodia’s Ministry of Education.

“The videos are paired up with worksheets since the pupils do not have exercise books. Video-based education is a new concept in Cambodia, but during the pandemic and the school closures, it has enabled education to continue without interruptions”, says Sari Turunen, education specialist for FCA in Cambodia.

In Kenya and Uganda, a mobile mentoring project for teachers has garnered good results, even though few own smartphones. FCA has provided smartphones for the teachers, who generally have decent digital skills. The greatest challenge is guaranteeing a sufficient Internet connection for everyone – and that is one of the key issues for the future of digitalisation in developing countries.

FCA Investments commits $1m seed investment to Ugandan fintech Ensibuuko

Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) investment company FCA Investments Ltd (FCAI) has committed a $1 million seed investment to Ugandan fintech Ensibuuko, which currently provides digital financial services to over 200,000 rural customers in Uganda. The commitment was announced on April 30 in Kampala.

The funding is going towards increasing financial inclusion in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ensibuuko will also gain access to FCA Investments’ technical resources and a global network of partners allowing it to build internal capacity and to establish strategic relationships across the region.

Ensibuuko operates a proprietary microfinance platform developed for Africa’s credit unions (SACCOs) and savings groups.

“I commend Ensibuuko for its focus on growing customer value and commitment to facilitating last-mile financial services. Their vision of unlocking opportunities for communities is well-aligned with our values at FCA Investments,” says Emmanuel Obwori, the Chief Operating Officer of FCA Investments.

FCA Investments seeks to leverage the power of long-term finance to unlock opportunities for underserved communities and boost job creation in developing countries by investing in impactful and scalable Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

The “impact-first” investment firm has already made several investments in high-growth, impact-driven businesses in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda, and most recently in Somalia. Ensibuuko is the first fintech investment to join its portfolio.

In 2019, FCA Investments committed 4 million euros to the Ugandan Yield Fund, which targets agriculture-related businesses in Uganda across all value chains.

With this new investment, Ensibuuko ups its competitive stance in Africa’s fintech space.

“We thank FCAI for this funding which will allow us to scale rapidly in Uganda and expand to other markets. This new raise brings total investments in Ensibuuko to $1.6 Million, having closed a pre-seed round in 2017 from a group of Canadian angel investors,” says Ensibuuko’s Founder & CEO, Gerald Otim.

Empowering rural communities through financial inclusions

FCA Investments and Ensibuuko have an ambitious target to increase financial inclusion by scaling rural banking infrastructure and digital financial services to millions of customers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Since its launch in 2014, Ensibuuko has developed digital products and services for SACCOs and savings groups and built the infrastructure that connects them to the wider ecosystem of financial service providers, including telecoms, insurance and banks.

The fintech deploys technology solutions to community-based savings and loans organizations, so they can efficiently reach and serve unbanked and most underserved communities in Africa with affordable and relevant financial services.

Their proprietary microfinance solutions help these organizations to automate data, process payments and become efficient and bankable.

Ensibuuko intends to make major improvements to its newer digital loan and micro-insurance products, which target rural customers. They envision a world where everyone has access to relevant and affordable financial products and services.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Read more about FCA Investments here.