Jesuit Refugee Service Reaches out to Students in Uganda’s Community-based Schools

A four-classroom block under construction at the Nyumanzi Secondary School, Uganda.
Credit: Jesuit Refugee Service, (JRS)

The international refugee organization of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Jesuit Refugee Service, (JRS) is supporting the construction of new community-based secondary schools in  Africa’s largest refugee host nation, Uganda.

The project, which aims at helping students enrolled in the schools overcome the challenges they face, is being realized in Adjumani in the Diocese of Arua situated in the Northern part of the East African nation. The challenges include limited infrastructure, the remuneration of teachers, and lack of scholastic materials, textbooks, and laboratory equipment, among other limitations.

“The large number of refugees has put a lot of pressure on the delivery of education services,” JRS leadership has said in a report published Friday, May 29 and added, “The schools are overwhelmed and cannot absorb the high number of children within the available structures.”

“In order to overcome these challenges, JRS is supporting the construction of new community schools in Adjumani,” JRS officials have further reported.

With funding from partners in Spain and Ireland, JRS is currently constructing one two-classroom block, one library and one administrative block at the Pagirinya Secondary School, and one four-classroom block including an office and store at the Nyumanzi Secondary School, both in Adjumani in the Catholic diocese of Arua.

“The major success so far has been the contractors’ ability to progress with work amidst tough restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown,” JRS’s site Engineer, Philip Mulokwa has reported.

JRS Uganda has supported Pagirinya Secondary School in the area since its opening in 2016. As of 2019, 931 refugee students were enrolled in the school.

The school’s lack of license from Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), which is necessary for candidates enrolled at the institution to sit for their national exams at their school, is a matter that JRS officials consider problematic and in need of urgent action.

“Although the students can take their exams in other registered schools, there is an urgent need to support Pagirinya in becoming registered with MoES – a timely and expensive process – as it is the second-largest school in the district,” JRS officials in Uganda have said.

In 2018, the Jesuit agency in Uganda assisted in the opening of Nyumanzi secondary school in the area, which has so far enrolled 296 refugee students and serves as the only secondary school in the settlement.

Due to limited space, some students have been forced to follow their classes under the trees, JRS officials in the East African country have said.

“We are very grateful for the continuing support to develop the schools, their capacities, and the learning environment for the students, our future generation,” they have said.

According to JRS, Uganda hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, making it the largest refugee host country in Africa.

The agency estimates that more than 1 million of those refugees have entered the East African country within the last two years, the majority fleeing from conflicts in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Uganda welcomes and hosts forcibly displaced people with an open-door policy – allowing refugees to have freedom of movement and the right to work. Some refugees still live in camps, while others migrate to urban areas, the leadership of JRS has reported.

To make the refugees in Uganda feel at home, JRS facilitates the offering of language classes, income-generating activities, emergency aid, recreational initiatives and other social services.

Founded in November 1980 by Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe, the mission of JRS is “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]