First Lady and Unhcr Boss discuss Refugee Education Response

The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni has held a meeting with the Country Representative of United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Uganda Mr. Joel Boutroue with whom they discussed issues regarding the Refugee Education Response in Uganda.

The UNHCR Country Representative, who has been in Uganda for only two and half months now, paid a courtesy call on the First Lady at State House Nakasero on Thursday.

The First Lady recognized and appreciated the support of UNHCR in the Refugee Education Response Plan process and towards setting up the Coordination Secretariat within the Ministry of Education and Sports, which

she hopes will improve coordination of all donors in the Education Response Plan. She emphasized the need for the Ministry to know the numbers of refugee education programs and exactly where these interventions are happening to enable effective supervision.

Mrs. Janet Museveni, who acknowledged that she had not been able to visit the refugee settlements yet, said she plans to visit them soon to educate herself on what has so far been done regarding the education of both the refugee children and those of the host communities in order to be able to appropriately plan for the gaps.

She welcomed Joel Boutroue to Uganda and appreciated the good working relationship between UNHCR, the Ministry of Education and Sports and other development partners. She said this partnership will go a long way to improve the lives of the refugees and requested them to continue working closely with Government on this journey.

 The UNHCR Country Representative informed the First Lady that UNHCR was working with Local governments and other line ministries and partners in the refugee response. He said in the two months he has been in Uganda, he has been able to visit almost all the Refugee Settlements in the country and also met with the District leaders who are working closely with UNHCR and OPM in the refugee response operations.

Boutroue noted that Uganda remains a beacon for refugee protection but much still needs to be done to support the Government in this endeavor.  He added that Uganda has been called a ‘Children’s emergency’ and education is therefore a key priority.

He reported that in the area of education, based on enrollment for the first term, UNHCR is reaching 29% of Ugandan and 71% of refugee children in primary school and 44% of Ugandan and 46% of refugee children in secondary school.  This, he however said, is not a good picture and more needs to be done to meet the standard.

UNHCR’s boss also informed the First Lady that currently, Uganda is piloting the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework which will lead to the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) to be endorsed by the UN General Assembly during the September-October sitting and that Uganda will be one of the leading countries since it has been a great pilot and has registered great lessons. He proposed an education event on the sidelines of the UN General assembly to discuss matters of Education in the context of the GCR, saying that this will be an opportunity to mobilize resources and support for the Education Response Plan and he invited the First Lady to lead the government team from Uganda to this event in New York to show case Uganda’s experience as a model pilot country.

Joel Boutroue reported some achievements by UNHCR in the Education Response Plan which include 35-40% enrollment of refugee children in school, construction of over 155 classrooms and teachers’ houses which benefit both refugees and host communities, paying salaries for over 2,000 teachers and a top up for head teachers and also providing scholastic materials. Additionally, UNHCR has funded NGOs like Windle Trust to implement Education programmes, attracted donors to fund education response plans for refugees and host Communities and promoted Early Childhood Development as a protective measure for refugee children.

The meeting was also attended by Ministry of Education and Sports’ Under Secretary for Finance and Administration Aggrey David Kibenge, UNHCR’s Assistant Representative Protection and the Senior Liaison Associate Maxwell Chrysolite Kamanyire.

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