Dukwi Refugee Camp
Opened in 1978, the Dukwi refugee camp is located in northern Botswana, approximately 559 kilometers (340 miles) north of country’s capital city, Gaborone. Covering nearly 20 square kilometers (12 miles), the camp is situated in a region that is favorable for cultivation, despite the extreme summer heat, which renders the camp’s roads and common areas dusty and arid. From patches of maize to groves of banana and mango trees, fruits and vegetables grow copiously within many family compounds throughout the camp. Nevertheless, during the rainy season, the camp infrastructure is jeopardized by flash flooding, oftentimes damaging semi-permanent structures such as mud-brick buildings and United Nations-issued tents.
In early 2012, there were nearly 3,500 individuals living within the Dukwi refugee camp, having fled from the African countries of Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Namibia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Uganda and others throughout the continent.
3,440 – Total Population
2,181 – Male (63.5%)
1,259 – Female (36.5%)
Refugees have lived in the camp for varying lengths of time, some for three to four years (many fled the 2008 post-election violence in Zimbabwe), while others have been living in Dukwi for over 15 years and have raised their children in the camp.
Education for refugees living in Dukwi follows the curriculum and policies set forth by the Botswana government. Schooling is free and compulsory for the first ten years, which completes the cycle through junior secondary school. For a student to progress on to senior secondary school, s/he must complete and pass the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE). Passing students then receive a calling letter, which instructs them on which boarding school to report to.
Currently, there is one primary school located within the Dukwi refugee camp, serving students living in the camp. Located approximately 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) outside of the camp, the Dukwi junior secondary school enrolls both local Batswana students and refugee students. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides bus transportation for refugee students attending the junior secondary school.
2012 Educational Statistics for the Dukwi Refugee Camp:
Supplied by the United National High Commissioner for Refugees
528 – Number of students attending primary school
251 – Female students
277 – Male students
136 – Number of students attending junior secondary school
75 – Female students
61 – Male students
31 – Number of students attending senior secondary school
16 – Female students
15 – Male students
The challenges facing refugee girls, as well as their families, are manifold and impede their ability to complete their education. Such obstacles include, but are not limited to:
Family Survival Needs
- Locating and hauling firewood, requiring young women and girls to venture into remote areas of the camp, often at great risk to their physical safety.
- Walking great distances to communal spigots to fill jerry cans with water.
- Cooking and preparing family meals within a confined space with limited tools and equipment. Often girls are required to withstand extreme heat and smoke due to a lack of ventilation, in conjunction with high outside temperatures.
- Maintaining the cleanliness and order of the family compound, including washing the family’s clothes by hand.
- Tending to family’s gardens and livestock (such as ducks or chickens).
Education & School-based Challenges
- An interruption in education as a result of students’ displacement, and detention upon arrival to Botswana. Students must often repeat grades or withstand a gap in learning.
- Learning the official language of instruction, if different than the official language of instruction in country of origin. Students are frequently held back until they achieve reasonable proficiency.
- School infrastructure deficits, including shortages of desks and chairs, as well as teaching and learning materials; frequent power outages resulting in loss of electricity and running water.
- Poor teacher motivation.
- Poor, or no, access to feminine hygiene products, resulting in girls being unable to attend school for multiple days each month.
- Discrimination from Batswana national students and teachers due to their refugee status.
- The absence of electricity at home, requiring students to complete homework before sunset – a significant challenge for girls who are responsible for the majority of the domestic chores.
Organizations working within Dukwi
The following is a list of organizations that are currently working within the Dukwi refugee camp, providing various services to those living within the camp:
- United National High Commissioner for Refugees
- Skillshare Botswana
- International Committee of the Red Cross