Nurturing future change makers
Windle International Somalia has been implementing the DAFI programme on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since early 2021. Muna Ahmed is one of the scholars being supported through the programme. Here's her story.
Muna Ahmed was born in Mukkalah, Yemen, in 1992, the second child in a family of four. She successfully completed her primary and secondary education in Taizz. But when civil war broke out, her family was forced to flee and seek sanctuary in Somalia as refugees in 2016. With support from the UNHCR, the family settled in Bosaso.
Despite the upheaval, Muna was determined to continue her education. Her family used what little savings they had to enrol her in the East Africa University Campus in Bosaso in 2017.
Her commitment to education paid off, and in September 2019, Muna was awarded the DAFI (Albert Einstein Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship, which is now implemented by Windle International Somalia on behalf of UNHCR.
Today, Muna is pursuing a Bachelor's Defree in Medical Laboratory in the faculty of Medicine and Health Science, and is set to graduate early next year. She believes that being a refugee is not a permanent situation, and that all refugees have dreams and talents that need to be nurtured; all they need are opportunities:
“I am on my way towards achieving my dreams. There are many other refugees like me with dreams and aspirations, and all they need is a chance to actualise and achieve them.”
Successful programme sees children returning to school in South Sudan after Covid-19 closures
Thanks to funding from UNICEF, Windle Trust International (WTI)’s Community Education Resilience programme has seen children successfully supported to return to school after 14 months of closures.
The programme continues to be implemented across urban areas of three states in South Sudan – Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria. The support includes a Back To Learning campaign, which works with the community to support children to return to school in various ways. It also delivers teacher training, and training for Parent Teacher Associations, as well as providing school supplies. As part of the campaign, peacebuilding, child protection and life skills are also developed through ‘peace clubs’ in schools.
WTI is a member of Windle International with offices in South Sudan, Sudan, and the UK. It has vast experience of working across East Africa, particularly in the areas of Girls Education, English Language training, teacher training, and tertiary education.
In April 2021, government ministers recognised the devastating impact of school closures on children and called for schools to reopen in May. This was welcomed by WTI, following its dire warnings that much of the progress made in South Sudan to increase the number of children – particularly girls – in school had been lost due to the pandemic. In partnership with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction and UNICEF, WTI started implementing the programme immediately, rolling out campaigns and engaging local communities.
Activities focused on the following areas:
Working with influential women leaders to champion education
One of the issues raised consistently by learners and practitioners in South Sudan is the lack of female role models for girls. Visible representation is crucial for motivating girls and women and helping them to understand the importance of education, so WTI worked with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction’s Director General for Gender and Inclusive Education – Mrs. Esther Okuma. She undertook radio broadcasts – one of the most effective means of communicating with large audiences across rural areas – to reach communities with her positive messages on girls’ education, and the safe reopening of schools. WTI also held press conferences and undertook interviews with national and regional media.
Supporting community leaders, elders and education officials
Across Africa, elders are respected and trusted as mediators, facilitators, and holders of knowledge and wisdom – both individual and collective. As such, they wield much influence within families and communities, so WTI worked with them to share messages about the positive impacts of returning to school for children and young people.
Steward Kutiyote, country leader for South Sudan at WTI, said: “In our many years of work in South Sudan, we know that when schools, parents, families, and communities and their leaders work together to support learning, students’ numbers increase in schools and attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enrol in higher level programmes.
“With this experience, we organised Back to Learning Campaign events in all the three State capitals of Juba, Torit and Yambio and invited community leaders and elders to address the gathering. When elders give their support to education programmes, it encourages parents to send their children to school.”
Traditional dance and music events
Dance and music play an important role in the history and culture of South Sudan and its people. Community events marking important occasions and incorporating community messages are popular. At one such event as part of the programme, over 400 people attended, including head teachers and Parent Teacher Association chairpersons from 8 schools in Juba.
Community mobilisation and engagement
WTI worked with local communities to help them identify and plan education activities, and provided a forum to discuss challenges affecting children’s education. By supporting the community to build its own capacity, it helps them to address their challenges themselves through empowerment and support.
David Masua, WTI’s Executive Director, said: “The programme has been a success and we can clearly see the results in the number of children who have reported back to school after the long period of closure. We’ll continue with the distribution of UNICEF-provided school supplies to support the large number of families and schools who cannot afford learning materials. We’ll also be continuing to work with teachers, school leaders, communities and children themselves to improve the quality of the education they receive, and improve the number of children staying in school.”
The transformative power of art
Through a process of creating collaborative art, diverse communities can come together in times of conflict and social turmoil, and address the challenges they face together.
This World Creativity and Innovation Day we are celebrating Windle International Uganda’s partnership with Artolution. In 2019, the project worked with children and young people to create a series of murals and a short film exploring the themes most important to residents of Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, and the neighbouring town of Yumbe, in Northern Uganda.
Bidibidi @artolution is a team of South Sudanese and Ugandan artists & educators spreading joy, colour & healing in the largest refugee camp in Africa. Image credit: https://www.instagram.com/bidibidi_artolution/
Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa – more than 1.45 million, mostly from South Sudan but also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. The Bidibidi settlement alone hosts 235,000 people.
The project team worked with over 1,000 children and young people living in Bidibidi and Yumbe who have experienced conflict. The team, specialists in working with refugee youth, worked with them to help children tell their own stories through film and by creating large-scale community murals.
Artolution worked closely on the project with Windle International Uganda, UNHCR, and Education Above All. The project coordinator, Atwine Swizen, worked for Windle International Uganda and combined his passion for engaging with communities through arts programming with his experience in theatre as actor and theatre director, and his humanitarian expertise. The project resulted in the creation of collaborative murals, particularly focusing on themes like finding hope through education, and the importance of cross-cultural dialogue for working towards peace. The team worked with children and youth to teach them a range of skills, from film-making and harnessing their creativity, to developing skills in working together to achieve a common goal.