In 2019, 3.7 million refugee children and youth remained out of school worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In order to achieve peace, justice and integration, we must recognize the crucial role an inclusive and quality education plays in the rehabilitation, self-reliability, safety, social inclusion, and future of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs).
Since 2017, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has served in Bertoua, Batouri, and Garoua Boulai in East Cameroon. JRS provides pre-school and primary education to about 28,000 refugee and Cameroonian children, as well as vocational training and women´s empowerment projects (these latter are supported by the US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration).
According to Rikam, an Education Coordinator at JRS Cameroon, children who experience conflict and displacement at an early age can recover from these traumas with adequate pre-school assistance. “If we educate the littlest ones, it is good society integration”, he added.
“Thanks to education we promote the possibility of living together,” explained Rikam René. Rikam serves as one of the two trainers of the Capacity Building Workshop for Community Pre-school Centres (CPC) Monitors, organized by JRS. Twelve CPC monitors and teachers of five JRS CPC based in Garoua Boulai took part in a capacity building training at the end of January 2020. This workshop responded to JRS’s aim to ensure an inclusive and quality education for all children and to build educational facilitator capacities to promote the integral development of children.
During the Capacity Building Workshop, the CPC monitors enhanced their knowledge of pedagogy and creativity practices, the development of pre-school curriculums and inclusion, among other subjects.
“The problem is that the monitors don’t have the right qualifications [to do pre-school education],” Rikam stated, “If you train the trainers, they will educate well the kid to be useful for society.” With this initiative, there is a direct benefit to the 880 children aged 3 to 5 who study under these monitors.
“I thank JRS for training me in things I didn’t know before,” said Souadatou Bouba, who has been a CPC monitor at JRS for two years in Garoua Boulai and attended the Capacity Building Workshop. “After the training I will sensitise the children and train them,” she added.
The training coincides with the celebration of the International Day of Education, 24 January, hosting over 30 participants from the nursery schools in the area. This date honours the importance of an inclusive quality education, which is a basic human right and part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In fact, JRS highlights the importance of education to achieve the SDG4, calling on Cameroonian leadership to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development and lifestyles.