What School is Like in a Refugee Camp

5099397c6Education is about embracing knowledge. I have always hated school but admired education. I will share with you why school was the last thing I wanted to do.

I grew up in a Tanzania refugee camp called Mtabila Refugee Camp. As a child, I reminisced with friends and family about the refugee camp.

Imagine sitting with three to five students on one wooden bench. In my camp, the large number of students enrolled in schools both in primary and secondary kept increasing incrementally. This caused the educators to seek help from organizations like churches to donate their locations as classrooms.

Now, imagine sitting in a church. There are four classes being taught at the same time—one in each corner. Since the churches have pews that are sometimes longer than the grocery lines at Walmart, this also means that bathroom breaks were sometimes denied depending on how many times you’d already gone.

But, as I look at my experiences from attending school in the refugee camp, that is the most inconvenient thing I can recall. Let’s get down to what school is like in a refugee camp.


Textbooks are limited

For ten years living in the refugee camp, not once was I given a textbook to keep. Not to mention regular books to read which I rarely saw. A textbook was only borrowed and shared with other students. We took notes from the blackboard the teacher used. A lot of notes. I thank the benefactors who are bringing technology to schools in the refugee camp.

You have refugees who are not only ready to learn, but ready to earn their education. However, the lack of resources is still a foreign language to those who live outside the barbed wires or the refugee camp.

Today, there are a number of refugees who still do not have access to education, books, or any learning material. Not getting access to education is worse when you are hungry for information.


No funds equal less opportunities

Though it is a refugee camp, economically, a family who has five goats might be able to afford to help their children dream bigger than the family of none. I remember seeing kids my age in the streets or quit school simply because they did not have enough funds to pay for their schooling. As an outsider, education is affordable in refugee camps. But for some of the refugees who reside in the camp, education can be quiet expensive.

Sometimes it is easy for refugees to quit school simply because they do not see its value. Imagine being born in a cage like a refugee camp and growing up in abandoned zone. You grow up seeing an unproductive environment throughout your life and only once in a while see a successful lawyer, a successful business man, or a successful role model.

You cannot improve what you do not know.

As a refugee, I can say I never dreamed of becoming an archeologist when I did not know what that means. So refugees are always happy to personally see someone who is successfully doing what we sometimes could only dream to be. To name a few: doctors, businessman, engineers, and actors or actresses.



Based on where the refugee camp is located, schools differ in many ways. Depending on the culture, some school teachers whoop students who show disrespect or are late to school. This is one of the ways in disciplining students which, depending on the individual, sometimes works or makes matters worse.

For me, too much whooping was a way to increase my disobedient and rebelliousness. In other words, this was a way to harden my heart to not have fear of anything that could come my way. I hated school because I never liked to be whooped as a way of discipline. By the time we came to the United States in 2008, I had already quit school because of the immense anger and suffering that had risen from all of the negative consequences.


Do refugee camps have school lunch?

Due to the growing number of refugees, some refugee camps do not offer any type of meals to the student body. In my camp, school started at 8:00 in the morning and we had to go home at noon for lunch. Then school was back in session at 1:45 to 5:00. It was a full day and the most sufficient way of keeping students busy and involved.



School activities could get very competitive. You have soccer players, basketball players, and volleyball players to name a few. There is competition throughout the school year for different sports. I always liked soccer season because it was one of the most competitive sports in my camp.

However, there were a great number of students who would like to play sports like tennis and golf, but never got a chance to compete. Those sports are quiet expensive for the schools to fund and some refugee students still wish they could make a golf club swing.

On behalf of refugees whether in camps or outside, I want to thank you for helping us and making a difference in our lives.

The change or dollars that you, friends or your family might have had donated to a charitable organization that helped refugees to see tomorrow does matter. For me, your tremendous support has helped me grow into a man whose mission has been set to make a significant difference in someone’s life. Thank you…

Born in the small African country, Burundi, Wilson Kubwayo is now an inspirational speaker and talks to diverse audiences about his theme, “Climbing the Walls of Greatness: How to live life to your fullest potential.”

By Wilson Kubwayo

Born in the small African country, Burundi, Wilson Kubwayo is now an inspirational speaker and talks to diverse audiences about his theme, “Climbing the Walls of Greatness: How to live life to your fullest potential.”

1 comment

  1. Pingback: 3articulated

Leave a comment