The United Nations refugee agency estimates that globally, only one in four refugee adolescents are in secondary school, while the rest, most of them female, are not in school. A Finish organization is trying to turn the fortunes for young refugees.
For refugees like Amina Chimanuka, who fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo four years ago, survival – not education - is the priority.
But as a refugee in Uganda’s Rwamwanja settlement, she was among 500 students who graduated last month from a secondary school run by Finland's largest charity, Finn Church Aid.
Chimanuka says she's now prepared to start her own sewing business.
"Previously I would just sit home with no work. Luckily they came and starting registering us to go study. I registered, we did entry exams, I passed and went to study for six months. Now my life has changed because I can now earn some little money,” Chimanuka said.
Finn Church Aid offers the students training in skills ranging from mechanics and welding to hair dressing and sandal making.
Ville Wacklin, the manager of the project, says the training is equal to any found in a public school.
“Our main goal is to have our diplomas recognized also in the neighboring countries such as DRC and South Sudan. Because, when the time comes and these refugees are returning home, hopefully to peaceful countries, then they can still boost their employability in their new home countries and help rebuild the societies,” Wacklin said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that only half of the children in refugee camps get any education at all.
In Rwamwanja, those who don't get admitted into secondary school suffer, says the UNHCR's Tita Cang.
“If they are not able to be accepted because of competition, where will they go? They become out of school youth. And sometimes, because of having nothing to do, being redundant in the settlement, they go into alcoholism or to anything that is bad vices,” Cang said.
But for refugees like Chimanuka that do get to study, the education provided by Finn Church Aid is literally life-changing.