In this refugee camp, the children attend school under the trees

Children in the Nduta refugee camp attend school

by Krista Zimmerman


The camps house hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Some have been there for years and others have just arrived, making the perilous trek across the border in search of protection from harm. Since January, around 600 new refugees arrive each day.

If this continues, Tanzania, a developing country itself, will soon host one of the largest refugee camps in the world.

This month I traveled to refugee camps in Tanzania to see how Save the Children is working to keep kids safe and help them learn. In one camp, the children attended schools under the trees. They were all lined up on rough wooden benches and doing their best to learn despite lacking books and chalk boards, roofs and walls.

In some ways the setting was idyllic. The trees were tall and green. The sky was sunny and blue. Birds chirped. The children were animated and eager to learn.

But sometimes a picture isn’t worth a thousand words.

The teachers explained how difficult it is for the children to study under these conditions. Many children have recently arrived and don’t know the other students or their teachers. Not having a physical structure makes things feel even more strange and scary. Also, the children get easily distracted. I saw this firsthand as thousands of young heads turned to witness my arrival.

And across camp, the sky wasn’t so sunny or bright. Children had to dash for cover, cradling their precious workbooks, when an afternoon rain shower closed down school for the day. During the rainy season, this can happen over and over again. Some of the children wear rain coats during classes, just in case.

Luckily, the children I visited won’t have to wait much longer for a school with four walls and a roof. It won’t be fancy (it will be made with mud bricks and aluminum sheeting) but it will provide a better learning environment.

The school under construction at Nduta refugee camp
A school under construction in Nduta refugee camp

The children I met were excited and look forward to their new school. Save the Children and its partners are building the school and will help run it when it is finished. This kind of assistance is made possible by the U.S. International Affairs budget – specifically the Migration and Refugee Assistance account.

But many other children need schools as well.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so concerned about the President’s proposed cuts to the International Affairs budget. Like these children, more than 85% of the world’s refugees are in developing countries that need help hosting refugees.

I hope you’ll join me in writing to President Trump and ask him oppose cuts to programs that save lives and help refugee kidsAnd maybe build a school for vulnerable kids who don’t have one.

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Krista Zimmerman is Save the Children’s Associate Director for International Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy, based in Washington, DC. Her work includes analyzing refugee policy and advocating on behalf of children affected by crisis.