June 2015: About 19,000 Nigerians have sought refuge in Chad to escape the continuing crisis in their homeland. More than 4,900 Nigerian refugees are currently sheltering in the Daresalam camp. Most of the children — like young Aisha and Bello — are going to school for the first time.
“I never had the chance to go to school. I am very happy to learn new things every day. I love mathematics,” says Aisha, 15.
She was married when she was 13 years old. She is now divorced and the mother of a child. For the first time in her life, she has access to education.
On 3 January, at dawn, Aisha and her family, frightened by the sound of shotguns, fled their village.
“We wandered in a canoe, hungry, with no water to drink,” she recalls. “Now, it’s a great chance for me to study. My young son, Aboukar, stays with my mother when I am in class.”
Bello is 10 years old, and he was born in Nigeria, in a village alongside Lake Chad.
“My father is a herder. I was not going to school as I was always with our cattle,” he explains. “Today, it is the first time I study. I love it.”
Bello never misses a class at school.
“I don’t want to do like my father. I want to study to become a soldier, but not to wage war. I want to protect others,” he says.
Despite many hardships, all the children in Bello’s family are going to school. UNICEF has set up school tents, provided education materials and supports health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and child protection interventions.
Children in Bello’s class are very enthusiastic to go to school, despite harsh conditions. UNICEF needs more support to scale up its response and offer all children in Chad a chance to pursue education.
Children are the first victims of the violence in northern Nigeria. Some 1.5 million people have been forced to flee or to take refuge in neighbouring countries, including 800,000 children. Close to 19,000 refugees have arrived in Chad, and some were born in the country—like these little twins.
Teacher Abba Kaka Sani walks home at the end of a school day, in the Daresalam camp. The next morning, more than 800 children will attend again, willing to learn and hoping for a brighter future.
Children colour during an art activity in a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space, where children can play and learn after school. UNICEF is providing psychosocial support for affected children to help them cope with their experiences. Many of the children were separated from their family members and witnessed violent atrocities.
This humanitarian crisis is another burden for Chad. Chad is already hosting about 500,000 refugees from the Sudan and the Central African Republic. Still, by attending temporary schools, Bello, Aisha and other refugee children can focus on their dreams and the future.
To learn more about UNICEF’s work in Chad, visit www.unicef.org/chad.