How Save the Children are responding to the Cameroonian Refugee crisis in Nigeria
The conflict in southern Cameroon began in October 2016, with mass protests in most Anglophone towns demanding independence for southern Cameroon. As a result of these protests, Anglophone Cameroonians began fleeing violence in October 2017 and continue to pour into Nigeria’s Cross River, Taraba, Benue, and Akwa-Ibom states with women and children accounting for 80% of the population.
Cameroonians arriving in Nigeria have been forced to rely on scarce local resources, and there are insufficient amounts of food and access to public services. However, through the intervention of UNHCR and Save the Children, many of the refugees have been relocated to refugee resettlements located at least 50km from the Nigerian border with Cameroon. The Adagom settlement in Ogoja province is one of these settlements and entry points for these refugees who have had to leave their lives behind in Cameroon and start again.
The influx of refugees into these settlement communities has been overwhelming and requires interventions to meet the basic needs of the refugees, especially the education of vulnerable children. In response to this, Save the Children through the integrated Education and Child Protection project funded by the US-Bureau for Population, Refugee, and Migration (BPRM), is working to provide quality education and child protection services and is guided by three main objectives which include:
- Increase access to safe learning opportunities, including protection and Gender Based Violence response services, for children affected by conflict;
- Strengthen state and community-based education by improving access to inclusive quality basic education and bolstering protection mechanisms which provide better protection from violence, abuse and neglect for other vulnerable children and,
- Improve access to age-appropriate psychosocial support and case management including family tracing and reuniting unaccompanied and separated children (boys and girls) affected by violence, armed conflict and displacement.
Since 2019, Save the Children International (SCI) has been working to provide quality educational services to children of refugees and children living within the host communities. In this blog post, we present voices from the field on the impact of Save the Children's interventions on their lives and in their communities.
Getting Refugee Children Back to Learning: Truth's Story
*Truth (on the right) playing with her friend after school in the settlement they live in Adagom community, Ogoja LGA
In 2016, Truth* left all she knew in Kajifu, Cameroon with her nine siblings, parents and extended family to move to Nigeria, where they settled in the Adagom community in Ogoja LGA. She was unable to attend school for that year as her family tried to find their bearing in a new territory.
Her father who was a farmer in Cameroon, has not been able to find land to start planting again. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected his other business and her mother’s as well.
However, she was able to resume school and started primary 3 in 2017. Now 11 years old, Truth* attends St. Peters 1 primary school which is almost a 30 minutes' walk from the settlement she lives in with her family, but this does not deter her from going to school. Her best subject is Christian Religious Studies.
When SCI distributed scholastic materials to her, she received books, stationery, socks, sandals, school uniform, sportswear, and school bags.
“This made me so happy to go to school because I had everything I needed for school.”
We also host an after-school learning programme in her settlement where she gets to learn Mathematics, English and learn board games like Ludo. She enjoys attending this session because she is able to learn concepts that she did not properly understand in school especially in Mathematics.
Truth* is happy to be in school and hopes to be a doctor when she grows up.
Enabling Teacher's for Success: Boniface's Story
Mr. Boniface Ugar sitting in his office at the St. Peters’ Primary school Adagom 3 in Ogoja LGA, Cross River State.
The first impression of Mr. Boniface Ugar is his amiable smile and welcoming presence. It comes as no surprise that he has been a teacher for the past 21 years. For the past six years, he has been serving as the head teacher at St. Peters’ Primary school Adagom 3 in Ogoja LGA, Cross River State.
Before Save the Children's intervention, many children had stopped attending school because their parents could not afford to provide school materials or pay the school levies. However, our Integrated Emergency Response Program for Cameroonian Refugee Children and Host Communities stepped in by paying off the levies of the learners who could not afford it.
We also distributed educational materials to refugee and host community children. In the same vein, we have expanded the learning spaces through this response by constructing additional classroom room blocks and provision of classroom desks, and benches, as well as teachers' desks and chairs across nine supported schools to ensure a conducive learning environment.
“Before there were many educational needs of the pupils that we the teachers had to provide from our pockets. When Save the Children came to our school, they provided numerous scholastic materials ranging from notebooks, pens, school bags, school uniforms, play materials and shoes for the pupils.” shares Mr Boniface, he also attests to the increase in attendance by pupils after this distribution and payment of levies.
The teachers were not left behind, as they were provided training and refreshers on positive discipline techniques, Teacher’s Professional Code of Conduct, Teachers in Crisis Context and Pedagogy, and Disaster Risk Reduction [DRR] within and outside the school environment. Mr Boniface swears by the positive discipline techniques manual and how he still refers to it all the time in his work. One gap the school had was the low ratio of teachers to students, which we were able to bridge by hiring Teaching Assistants from the community.
“We used to have just nine teachers to over 460 pupils. Since they brought on the four volunteer teachers it has been such a huge relief to this school. Now we have 13 teachers!”
Of all the support, Mr. Boniface is most grateful for the new block (pictured above) that SCI built and furnished, which has his office, a store for materials, a fire-proof storage cabinet. He cannot imagine how he will be able to keep the school afloat without the aid from SCI and hopes that the donors do not have any reason to pull out.
Accelerating the Education of Children: Peace’s Story
*Peace studying in a classroom during break time.
Peace* is 15 years old and lives with her parents and two older sisters in nearby Ayogobay village in Ogoja LGA. After attending school in the Aboni Bakor college, she goes to sell groundnuts after school to support her parents. One day while she was hawking groundnut, she met an SCI volunteer who told her about the non-formal learning groups [learning by radio program] in her community.
The non-formal learning groups meet about two to three times a week at the designated learning centers within their communities, which targets out-of-school and in-school children and adolescents. We partnered with the College of Education to train both formal school teachers and non-formal learning center's facilitators in teaching skills and social emotional learning.
The sessions are then delivered via solar powered radios with the pre-recorded lessons saved on memory cards. Peace* was intrigued and extremely interested after learning all these so she immediately signed up.
She has been attending the non-formal learning groups in her community since February this year where they are taught Mathematics, English Language, and Nigerian History and Values in smaller groups segmented by age, class and needs of the students.
“Some things they don’t teach me in school, I get to learn during the learning groups,” she shares on what she has gained from the sessions.
Peace* enjoys how they are taught and likes her facilitators too. “I like how nice my teacher is, he always takes time to explain things we don’t understand very well.” She was also supported with books, workbooks and stationery for school. Peace is in SSS1 and in science class, she hopes to study science when she goes for her higher education.
Save the Children continues to work to improve learning outcomes in the early years of children by promoting literacy and numeracy through inclusive learning environments. We also continue to work to protect children in conflict settings and changing behaviors that expose children to violence.
Written by Ugochi Nwangwu and Oyeniyi Omopariola
Edited by Pamela Osakwe
Photo credit: Save the Children Nigeria/Eyimofe Omede