IRIN Africa | BURUNDI: Helping returnee students overcome language barrier | Burundi | ... - 0 views
MAKAMBA, 24 February 2011 (IRIN) - Unversed in Burundi's official languages of French and Kirundi, children of refugees returning after decades spent in Anglophone countries, such as neighbouring Tanzania, often find it difficult to continue their studies and some drop out.
To ensure such students continue learning, a group of returnee teachers has set up an education centre in the commune of Mabanda in Makamba Province, near Tanzania. The teachers work without pay.
"We couldn't just sit back while our children faced a lack of education due to a language barrier," Norbert Bitaboneka, the principal, told IRIN.
Swahili and English are the languages of instruction at the facility, the Centre Prévisionnel de l'Afrique de l'Est (East African Planning Centre), in line with the Tanzanian curriculum. The language of instruction in Burundian schools is French.
Most of the returnee students affected by the language barrier are those whose parents fled Burundi during civil war in 1972.
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"When I returned from Tanzania, I hoped to continue with my studies but I had no chance of doing so because I didn't understand French or Kirundi," Imed Hakiza, now a small-scale trader at Mabanda market, said.
“The situation is complex. The school is not recognized by Burundian law but teachers and the principal are doing something good, which made us decide not to close the school even though we were asked to do so," he added.
"Besides language training, we are adopting a holistic approach in providing returnees with life skills like sports for integration, culture and arts, awareness-raising and discussions of youth-relevant issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, environmental awareness and conflict resolution," Zeus said.
According to RET, some 690 students are enrolled in intermediate level courses to learn French and Kirundi and culture clubs have been set up in 37 secondary schools across the provinces of Bururi, Makamba and Rutana.
Bujumbura — Burundi is set to benefit from a rice fortification technology that will not only be the first in Africa but will also help check malnutrition in children through school-feeding programmes.
International organizations PATH and World Vision will introduce Ultra Rice, made from rice flour and enriched with micronutrients, including iron, zinc and folic acid, to about 15,000 children from April.
According to Neilson, the project will impact "on the attendance and retention of primary-school students. In addition, the students continue to receive nutrition education through the government health and education programmes."
Rice is not a staple food in Burundi, however.
A parent in the capital, Bujumbura, who declined to be named, said: "In our home villages, we eat rice only on special occasions, like Christmas or during other ceremonies. This will be interesting for children to get it at school on a daily basis; we hope its taste won't be too different from the normal rice."
Tanzania and Burundi, for instance, have recorded a 99 per cent enrolment rate into the first grade of primary school.
The pertinent question is: How effective are these funds in retaining children in school?
Once enrolled, how long can the pupils be expected to last in the education system, and how many years of schooling, on average, are actually attained by East African pupils?
However, East Africa is faring badly a 9.1 years, equivalent to a pupil completing primary school, but dropping out of high school.
The average number of school years actually completed regionally was a mere 4.7 years.
The scenario is particularly dismal in Burundi, where on average pupils completed only 2.7 years of school.
According to the Global Education Digest 2010 published by Unesco, in the late 1990s, developing countries began to recover some of the educational ground lost in the 1980s, when enrolments stagnated or even declined in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
In fact, the pace of progress accelerated since 2000 and if trends between 2000 and 2008 continue, the increase in school life expectancy in the current decade will be three times the level achieved in the 1970s.
In sub-Saharan Africa, school life expectancy nearly doubled from 4.4 years to 8.4 years in the past 30 years.
Despite this progress, the region has the lowest number of school years — almost half of the number of years in North America and Western Europe (16.0 years).
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As pointed out by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, primary education without transition into secondary and tertiary levels can only lock a country in a basic factor-driven economy.
n Burundi, for instance, government commitments to providing universal primary education appear to be directed towards enrolment.
From an enrolment rate of 36 per cent in 1999, the country recorded a full 99 per cent of girls and close to 100 per cent of boys enrolled in primary school nine years later.
School drop-out rates are high however, as only 45 per cent of Burundian children complete a full course of primary education.
Girls in Rwandan primary schools outnumber boys: 97 per cent of girls compared with 95 per cent of boys are enrolled in primary school.
Slightly more than half (54 per cent) of Rwandan children complete primary school.
Secondary school enrolment in the country stands at 21.9 per cent, the second lowest in the region.
he situation in Uganda is similar — 98 per cent of girls and 96 per cent of boys are currently enrolled in primary school.
Completion rate of primary school is 56 per cent. The transition rate into secondary school is low, however, with most pupils unable to progress past the final grade of primary school — only 21 per cent of girls and 22 per cent of boys make it into secondary school.
Kenya lags behind other East African countries in primary school enrolment — 82 per cent of girls and 81 per cent of boys of primary age are enrolled in school.