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eTeach- Empowering Teachers and students in Northern Uganda refugee settlements

Building inclusive and peaceful communities through education

Photo of Alessandra Podest
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Uganda hosts 1.4 million refugees, making it the largest refugee hosting nation in Africa. Since 2016, the growing influx of South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda has overstretched the region’s already underperforming education system, causing record overcrowding (pupil-teacher ratio 150:1), shortage of learning materials, inadequate teaching time (3 hours a day against 7 of national average). Teachers experience low morale, work with outdated resources and limited opportunities for professional development. Children are also affected: often speaking different languages and having experienced different learning curriculum, South Sudanese and Ugandan children struggle to learn. Evidence also suggests that exposure to violence, family separation and unmet emotional needs can lead to development of special learning needs (SLN). But teachers are ill-equipped to recognize and address SLN of school children and lack confidence to manage and teach a diverse classroom. Our eTeach project aims to improve knowledge, capacity and confidence of primary school teachers of the Palabek settlement in Uganda, to support large and diverse classrooms including refugee children who have experienced displacement and trauma and may have developed SLN. 100 teachers will be trained in inclusive education through a 2weeks self-training online course, available freely on low bandwidth phones, accessing tools and resources designed to facilitate the management of large groups of students with diverse needs. A Learning Support Assistants (LSA) scheme will complement the virtual self-training platform to foster teachers’ motivation and performance. South Sudanese refugee teachers employed as LSAs will relieve the pressure of overcrowded classrooms and support the gradual inclusion of refugee pupils facing language barriers. eTeach will aim to see 80% of teachers demonstrating use of inclusive practices and improved attendance and school performance for at least 60% of targeted children.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Palabek is the newest refugee settlement established in Uganda in April 2017. Located in Lamwo district in the northern part of the country, the settlement hosts over 49,000 South Sudanese refugees. Infrastructure and education facilities are still inadequate compared to the demand. The settlement currently has only 7 settlement primary schools, 2 government schools and 1 secondary school that cater for over 15,000 children from both refugees and host communities.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

By creating supportive and inclusive learning environments, our project will bridge refugees and host communities in Northern Uganda, including their children, fostering more cohesive and thriving society that promotes integration and resilience. Through our LSA Scheme that recruits unemployed South Sudanese teachers, our project will create an environment where both refugee and Ugandan teachers collaborate and contribute equally to the economic and social return of educated children in Uganda.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

“Access to quality education, including for host communities, gives fundamental protection to children and youth in displacement contexts, particularly in situations of conflict and crisis.”(New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,2016) Displaced children living Palabek refugee settlements still face considerable barriers to access and remain into education, particularly those who suffer from mental health or SLN. Children from host communities face same dynamics and are placed to learn in a classroom with children who speak a different language. eTeach responds to children’s right to education envisaging the creation of safe learning spaces with trained teachers who can support psychological and social needs of refugee and ugandan children,fulfilling their need of emotional stability which positively affect their learning. eTeach also recognises the skills and potential of unemployed South Sudanese teachers by involving them in the project, fulfilling their professional needs

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Bringing together children and teachers from both refugees and host communities to learn and work together, eTeach will create a more inclusive school environment and community, where stigma and discrimination towards refugees and people affected by disabilities is challenged and overcome creating positive lasting impact on the way the two communities live together. First, by studying together in the classroom, refugee children will find it easier to learn and play with their Ugandan peers. This will facilitate integration of the two communities as the younger generation will grow to create a more cohesive and harmonized society. Second, as Ugandan and Sudanese teachers support each other in their profession, they will be able to directly transmit a message of collaboration to the whole community, decreasing likelihood of inter-communal conflict and violence.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

eTeach is the first intervention bringing together innovative inclusive education training and Learning Support Assistance to improve learning environment, teachers’ motivation and inclusive communities in the Ugandan humanitarian context. Our inspiration stems from the successes of CfC inclusion interventions in Rwanda, Kenya and Northern Uganda producing first-time evidence of the needs and challenges faced by teachers in supporting and including children with special educational needs in both rural and urban areas. The results of the eTeach pilot will contribute to document promising practices in refugee education and inform Uganda’s long-term response to the inclusion of refugee children in its Education Plan, in line with its Second National Education Plan. Evidence will be used to positively influence key stakeholders in Northern Uganda to lead education response and teacher trainings in the settlements equipping teachers to work with children with SLN in humanitarian context.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Decades of civil war and instability left northern Ugandan communities live amidst a legacy of poverty, trauma and broken welfare services. Bringing refugees and host communities together is challenging, particularly in education. However, supporting teachers and children to learn together is essential to build a peaceful inclusive society.Paul, a South Sudanese teacher in Palabek, works in a primary school with 800 children, majority from South Sudan, with only other 15 teachers. To face overcrowding, the school introduced double shift: children do not attend more than 3h of school per day while teachers work 10h per day. Paul struggles to familiarise himself with the Ugandan curriculum without support from his Ugandan colleagues. Most refugee children are orphans, they have short attention spans at school with high rate of absenteeism, and aggressive behaviour. No support or training has been given to teachers at Palabek on mental health issue and dealing with SLN.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Education is the most powerful tool to building peaceful communities, preparing children as leaders of tomorrow. The Palabek settlement opened in April 2017 and currently hosts 49,000 South Sudanese refugees, majority of which are women and children. There are 7 schools, while 2 more schools are pre-existing and belong to the host communities. 70% of current teachers are Ugandan whilst 30% are South Sudanese. Both refugees and Ugandan children attend classes together. As such, there is a lot of constraint to deliver a high-quality education as there are language barriers and overcrowding problems. However, both refugee and Ugandan teachers are committed and motivated to improve in their profession and see their students learn in a better environment. With a decade of experience delivering inclusive education projects in low resource settings such as post-conflict northern Uganda and Rwanda, CfC has all the appropriate tools and knowledge to lead Palabek communities through this journey

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We will work with local district authorities at Lamwor, particularly with the District Education Office (DEO), and the Office for Humanitarian Coordination, to ensure that the pilot fits within the district development agenda for education. Implementation will be coordinated by CfC with direct involvement of local partner organisation PACHEDO who will lead the direct delivery of project activities in Palabek, building on their established presence and emergency integrated response to both refugees and host communities since 2016. PACHEDO will also provide technical expertise on the screening of mental health needs and input into the design of the eTEACH teacher training platform.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Channel: A new way to deliver existing products or services to customers or end users

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Chance for Childhood

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Chance for Childhood is a charity working in Africa to support the most vulnerable children, often invisible from society, such as street children, disabled children, children affected by conflict and children in conflict with the law. Our vision is of a world where no child is forgotten. What makes us special? We work with visionary community leaders who best understand their local context. Our commitment to working in partnership with other stakeholders stems from our ambitious goal to tackle the complex and often intractable causes of neglect, violence and discrimination against children and young people.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United Kingdom

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Rwanda, Kigali Uganda, Kampala


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ramatu Issaka

Hi Alessandra Podest, thanks for sharing your wonderful idea. We are excited to have you join
Bridge Builder 2019. I would suggest in addition to your idea that to improve learning environments caning should also not be allowed in schools. This is because it affects children physically.
Teachers think caning is a quick fix to problems and therefore tend to abuse children.
This brings pains on students and will end up believing no one cares for them.

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