Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Northwestern Tanzania was established in 1996, when civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) forced people to flee their homes, often with little more than the clothes on their backs, and cross Lake Tanganyika into Tanzania. Today, more than 65,000 Congolese and Burundian refugees live in Nyarugusu, over half of whom are children.

In the past weeks a further 50,000 Burundians have arrived in Nyarugusu camp, displaced by pre-presidential election violence in Burundi. In camp, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) leads child protection and youth development activities, serves people with special needs, and directs women’s protection and empowerment programmes. Additionally, the IRC provides education in the camp, in partnership with the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

Meet Akulu Mandama, a Congolese refugee and a teacher at Fortunata Pre-School, who lives in Nyarugusu camp.

“My name is Akulu Mandama and I am a teacher here at Fortunata Pre-School.

I came here from the DRC in 1999 because I was afraid for my life. In the DRC I was a teacher and I taught a mixed class of Congolese and Tutsi children. When the war broke out in 1996, some of our Congolese brothers wanted to kill the Tutsi children. I tried to protect them, and therefore I was threatened and in danger of being attacked.

I left everything behind and came here with my wife and my children.

I have been teaching here in Nyarugusu for over 10 years now. This is my classroom. In my class I have many students. I teach them pre-primary mathematics, counting, writing, and also reading.

When the classroom is messy, which you can see it is now with mud and dust, I get up at 5:00am to come and sweep. Later, when I return to the school to start teaching at 8am sharp, I find the children waiting for me in front of the classroom door. So I can say that the children really love school, they love learning.

When I see the children being a bit disruptive, we stop the lesson and take a break with singing. 

I love teaching these children because, in the future, they will be like me; some will be educators, both girls and boys, like I am myself. That is what I see in the future, that is my hope.”

Akulu teaches at Fortunata Pre-School, built and resourced by the IRC and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) as part of the EU's Children of Peace initiative. The EU Children of Peace initiative aims to train teachers, rebuild classrooms, provide quality education and leisure activities, and help children have a normal childhood. The IRC is also working closely with parents and the community to invest in their children’s futures through education.