Innovation in a refugee camp

How to co-create and innovate with limited resources

During our visit in Uganda earlier this year, we met with James Ntakiruti, founder and innovation manager of Youth Initiative Schools in Kyaka Refugee camp. As of today James founded three schools in refugee camps and he is now supporting others in the camp to realize their dreams. Are you curious about social innovation in a refugee camp? Feel free to contact James.

I am Ntakiruti James; I was born in 1994 in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and I since I was four years old my home has been in the refugee camp Kyaka ii in Uganda. In 1997 when I was 4 years old, there was a war in my country (DRC) and we had to run in to our neighboring country of Uganda. Since then, my country hasn’t been stable and we have had the chance to go back. The war is due to politics and tribalism and millions of Congolese have been killed. Many youths were disrupted in their education when they flee and they never had the chance to continue. There are very poor conditions for education in the camp. The life in the camp cannot favor youth to study .Education is expensive compared to the standards of living in the camp which leaves many youths uneducated and unemployed. I struggled together with my parents to get the little education I have.

The situation of uneducated and unemployed youth and very poor school conditions, forced me to think how to solve the problem. I found that there was a need of more primary schools in the camp.

I formed a youth group (Youth Initiative Group) and initiated the first school in 2014. The school has now grown into three schools in Kyaka ii refugee settlement in three different villages.

How to build a school with no resources

We use the local materials like trees and soil to construct the school buildings, that was the cheapest material that we could afford to get. We constructed school together with the youth group’s members and we mobilized the community to participate.

We carry out fundraising to get food and money to pay the teachers from the community.

From start our school had no books, no teachers, no classroom and not enough pencils, but we managed to create innovative solutions to all that. We trained our members to become teachers to increase teaching staff by volunteering.

During holidays, all teachers met and made school materials for the children from local materials. We made picture books from old magazines, newspapers and paper bags. Balls, ropes and doles were made from grass.

These solutions have increased the number of school going children and created jobs for many youth in the camp.

It is now possible that few refugee children can also get education at the early childhood in the camp. My dream is that, in the future, also refugees can access quality education at low cost.

If everything goes as I hope, I will be selected for the Autumn School for sustainable Entrepreneurship in Germany later this year. If you are interested in learning more about Innovation in a Refugee Camp, feel fre to contact me on email or on WhatsApp or on Facebook.

Or if you want to share your thoughts with us at Expedition Mondial. You’ll find us on Linkedin or on our website We would love to hear from you!