N'Djamena, 29 September 2017 – More than a decade after the initial
onset of conflict in their homeland, Darfuri refugees remain in twelve
refugee camps near the Chadian border with
Sudan. In these twelve settlements, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
runs its largest education project worldwide, and for the past few
years, this project focused on supporting students and educators transition to a new curriculum.
The success of these students, teachers, and the JRS staff involved
in this initiative is evident in the results of this year’s
Baccalaureate exam (BAC), a Chadian government exam mandatory to certify
secondary education. In 2017, more Darfuri students from eastern Chad
registered to take the exam than ever before, most those who sat for the
exam were approved, and more young women participated than in the years
As in many refugee communities, education remains an essential part
of everyday life and an important priority for Darfuri refugees. “When a
population moves to a place, due to emergency situations (and
particularly after conflict), education is key to restoring child
protection standards and promoting well-being, as well as restoring the
community,” explains Nadezhna Castellano, JRS’s International Education
Since 2003, schools in the twelve camps housing Darfuri refugees in
eastern Chad were still following the Sudanese education system. In
2014, the UNHCR and Chadian Government resolved to begin transitioning
the academic curriculum used in these schools to the standard Chadian
curriculum used throughout the country.
The transition was not easy, and challenges were met at pedagogical,
organisational, and political levels: teachers remained unfamiliar with
the new curriculum, differing educational structures struggled to be
mediated, and textbooks did not exist at many levels. For refugees and
other vulnerable communities, a change like this is also difficult on a
societal level, “Curriculum represents communal and national identities.
We study our geography, our language, and our history…and when you have
lost everything, sometimes education is the only heritage you can
provide to your children,” says Nadezhna about the difficulties of
curriculum transitions within a context of displacement and humanitarian
In response to these challenges, JRS focused their programs in
eastern Chad on educational initiatives that included developing greater
teacher capacity. This was done in part through a mentorship program in
which Chadian education professionals tutored Sudanese teachers.
Equally important was empowering young students with sufficient
preparation and encouragement to take the BAC. Some of the educational
programming was also specifically geared towards helping to engage,
support, and empower young women.
Now, a few years later, the benefit of the transition is coming full
circle, and JRS is proud of the accomplishments of the Darfuri students
involved in this project. In the next few years, opportunities for
successful higher and professional education will only continue to
expand in eastern Chad, as JRS education programs focus on supplying
additional student scholarships, school kits, continued teacher
training, and education advocacy.
As an organisation, JRS prioritises the need of education for
displaced populations living in contexts of uncertainty. For Darfuri
students living in eastern Chad, the future of education is bright and
more certain than ever before.