A story from Burundi: for refugees, education matters even more

Children in a classroom in Burundi

Children in a classroom in Burundi.

CREDIT: UNICEF Burundi/Colfs

It is the desire of all of us to live peacefully and to enjoy all the rights that our governments must ensure, including the right to education. Unfortunately, this was not the case for my parents, who grew up as refugees in Tanzania following the civil war in Burundi in 1972.

They had to leave everything behind, including their studies, in order to save their lives. Arriving in Tanzania in the Ulyankulu refugee camp in Tabora province, my parents were able to study. Thanks to UNHCR's support, they were enrolled from primary school to college. With the diplomas they received, my father was eventually employed in regional hospital and later on in a private hospital as a medical technician while my mother became a secretary in the office of the Governor of the province of Tabora.

From one refugee camp to another

In 1990 they returned to Burundi, and four years later we once again found ourselves fleeing to Tanzania after the civil war of 1994. During this time, I was in kindergarten, which I was privileged to continue even as a refugee in Tanzania.

Two years later, we had to move again, this time to Zaire (the current Democratic Republic of Congo). Unfortunately, in October 1996 we had to flee yet another civil war and were forced to return to Tanzania. My parents did not want my siblings and me to stay in a refugee camp. For them, it was like watching a remake of their own stories.

They managed to get out of the refugee camp. Life was not easy but we survived. My father, with the little income he earned, was able to collect enough money so my mother could start small business selling coal and tomatoes in the neighborhood where we lived. I spent two years at home during this time, without going to school.

Giving the gift of education

My parents knew the importance of receiving an education; they did everything they could to get me back into school. In 2002, six years later, we returned to Burundi where I went to high school all the way to completing university studies.

It has been two years since I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Law. My parents struggled, but they managed with to send me and my siblings to school on a very low income. They gave of themselves, body and soul, so that I could reach the dream that they had not a chance to reach.

In our daily lives, our relationships, whether friendly, parental or professional, are characterized by how we share and give what we have as a testament of our love and gratitude for those who are most dear to us. And yet, we cannot give what we do not have.

My parents gave me an education. This is the most precious, important and valuable gift in the world we live in today.

My father always says, "I have no wealth to give to you other than education”, to which my mother adds, "Keep hold of education; let her not go from your life." These words have become my guiding principles throughout my learning journey. They encourage me never to give up, despite the difficulties I encounter.

My parents did not relent on providing for my schooling, despite their limited income, because they had already seen the fruits and benefits of being educated.

Thanking partners that provide education for refugees

I also salute the great work that UNHCR did for me: the organization gave my parents the gift of an education. It is an imperishable seed: it multiplies! Without this support, I don’t know what my parents would have become today. And most definitely, I would not have been able to share my story with you.

It is for this reason that I choose to support the Global Partnership for Education as one of its youth advocates. I support its replenishment that seeks to raise funding for 2018 to 2020. These resources will support the education of up to 870 million children in 89 developing countries, home to 78% of the world's out-of-school population.

Education - the gift that keeps on giving

Education is transmitted from generation to generation: when we educate a child, we are not only investing in the child we see before us but in an entire future generation.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Burundi

Author(s)

GPE youth advocate
Aline was born in a town of Tanzania, Tabora, where her parents were refugees. She started her education at Ecole Francophone de Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, studying further in two schools in Bujumbura, Burundi...

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