Building Local Capacity to Support Secondary Education for Refugees

This project provides access to comprehensive secondary education for refugees and vulnerable host community members, especially girls, by supporting formal school systems and community-based secondary schools.
Primary, secondary & youth education

Building Local Capacity to Support Secondary Education for Refugees

This project provides access to comprehensive secondary education for refugees and vulnerable host community members, especially girls, by supporting formal school systems and community-based secondary schools.

Rosemary & Evaline attend secondary school in Obongi, Uganda, with support from ECW and JRS.

The project in brief

Implemented by

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Uganda 




2016 - Ongoing


Access to secondary education in the refugee-hosting districts in Uganda is severely constrained. According to the Ugandan Education Response Plan (ERP) only 11% of refugees and 18% of host community children are enrolled in secondary school. Of the refugees enrolled, only 33% are girls.  

Traditionally, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and its partners have supported access to secondary education by providing student scholarships and grants for scholastic materials. JRS was reaching 738 students since 2016. 

More recently, JRS has expanded its approach by supporting community-based schools run by refugees.


Project aims 

By building the capacity of these schools, this strategy has allowed a far greater number of refugees to access secondary school, as the national schools are unable to accommodate such large numbers of learners. Support includes resources for school infrastructure, teacher salaries, and providing teaching and learning materials. JRS has supported five community-based schools in this way since 2018 reaching 2,631 students. 

Resources used

Efforts to improve secondary education access have been enabled foremost by Uganda’s commitment to the CRRF, which it has codified in a national Refugee Response Plan (RRP). This has been further refined in the education sector through the ERP. Each district has developed a district-level ERP (phase of drafting is completed) aligned to the national plan, breaking the goals down and defining local needs. Efforts undertaken by partners are in line with district-level ERPs, thereby ensuring the support and alignment of local communities and officials. Several partners have contributed funding to support components of the ERP, including UNHCR, which has prioritized funding for community-based secondary education in Adjumani, and Education Cannot Wait, which has funded construction of secondary school infrastructure in 2018.  


  • UNHCR 
  • OPM 
  • District Education Officer (DEO) 
  • Windle International Uganda 
  • Finn Church Aid 

Challenges and how they were overcome

A major challenge to increasing access to formal secondary education is a sustainable model for funding school fees through scholarships. While JRS originally provided full scholarships to a small number of students, the reach of this activity was significantly limited, and funding partners expressed concerns about long-term sustainability. 

Another challenge is that given the overwhelming number of school-age refugee youth in Uganda, much of the focus has gone to ECD and primary education, with less attention paid to secondary education. This has affected the mind-set of parents and communities, who see fewer options for their children beyond primary school. 

JRS is implementing a partial scholarship model in order to reach more students and also mitigate the risk of dependency posed by a full scholarship model. In addition, several partners have broadened the scope of activities available to secondary-age youth beyond traditional lower (“O level”) and upper (“A level”) secondary. Finn Church Aid is developing vocational training centers and projects for secondary-age youth. War Child Canada is piloting an Accelerated Education Program for lower secondary school, aiming to engage those who are out of school and find avenues to bring them back to the formal education system.  

Results of the Good Practice 

  • The construction work in 2018/2019 helped to increase access to secondary education, to improve the learning environment, and to reduce protection risks due to challenges including long distances to walk from home. 
  • More than 700 students have been supported through the secondary education scholarship program and provision of materials, resulting in 94% of sponsored students passing their exams. 
  • 384 (278m, 106f) teachers have been trained on pedagogic skills in compulsory subjects and on MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support). 
  • Refugee and Host Community members have better access to secondary education due to the support of community-based schools. 

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

This project meets Objective 2 by promoting access to, and improvement of, secondary education for refugees and members of the host community. Central to this project is building the capacity of teachers and school administrators at refugee-led community schools to ensure that they are able to provide a quality education to secondary school students in their communities. This includes conducting awareness raising workshops in the communities regarding education, especially on the importance of educating girls, and accompanying students throughout their secondary education to empower them and develop their capacity. 

Next steps 

JRS will continue to support community-based secondary schools in Adjumani as well as to focus on girl child education. JRS is planning to start a new education project in South West Uganda. 


Submitted by: 

Christina Zetlmeisl, Deputy Country Director, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Uganda