Protection and self-reliance of refugee youth through education

From Life Skills programs to formal secondary schools, RET demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of education as a tool of protection and positive self-reliance.
Primary, secondary & youth education

Protection and self-reliance of refugee youth through education

From Life Skills programs to formal secondary schools, RET demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of education as a tool of protection and positive self-reliance.

The project in brief

Implemented by

 RET International




2005 - renewed if funding is available


The absence of education opportunities in camps caused youth to cross the border to seek secondary education back in insecure Darfur. With only 5.5% of the Sudanese refugee having access to post-primary education, armed conflict and drastically increased the risk of youth being recruited into armed groups. While the provision of education responds to a basic human right, building the capacities of the youth and giving them the opportunity to be more self-reliant and improve their own future also serves as an important protection mechanism, mitigating the risks for the youth preventing them from falling into harm’s way, delinquency, early marriages and falling prey to recruitment nets of the armed groups.  

RET’s interventions in Eastern Chad, since 2005, demonstrated the importance and effectiveness of education as a tool of protection and positive self-reliance. Gradually, at first through the Life Skills Program and SEDL, and later through formal secondary education RET filled the gap in the provision of secondary education and provided the youth with a safe opportunity to complete their education, improving livelihoods and self-reliance.   

RET’s programs and the activities were highly instrumental in preventing youth from joining armed groups and engaging in harmful behavior. The implementation of Grade 8 and Grade 11 examinations across 12 camps was critical toward achieving the protection of youth. RET provided the most vulnerable youth and most likely targets of armed groups the opportunity to take accredited education exams in camps, thus significantly decreasing risky cross-border movement. RET developed youth Peace Clubs, sports activities, and community theater to reduce delinquency, advance tolerance and ways of living together in peace. 

When designing programs RET recognizes community participation and building self-reliance is critical to rendering its programs successful, sustainable and adaptable. RET’s Teacher trainings supported education efforts by closing the gaps in qualification. RET’s successfully weaved community interaction and democratic participation into both its day-to-day activities through Education Councils, Parent Student Associations (PSA), and Girls and Boys Committees. They represented the voice of the communities and helped the community develop self-management capacities. 

Girls and Boys Committees launched awareness-raising campaigns to sensitize the refugee community about the importance of girls and boys schooling and attendance. They also provided important peer support within the community, tracked school absence, and conducted valuable follow-up.  

Education Councils were instrumental in boosted the self-management capacity of community and were put in place as a common voice to represent the schools. Members were trained on how to manage schools, prepare educational plan, raise funds, and organize and monitored exams. They also conducted awareness raising activities to encourage students to sit for exams.  

PSAs originally created by RET in its schools, served as a comprehensive mechanism that supported the schools, covering financial and material angles. The gradual professionalization of the PSA and in empowering communities to claim responsibilities of schools were vital steps in RET`s hand-over of the schools to the Chadian authorities and local communities.  

Project aims

Although education was a priority among the refugee community, post-primary education opportunities were scarce in camps, causing cross-border movements of youth into insecure Darfur.  Absence of daily activities and school attendance left adolescents and youth vulnerable to criminality, negative behaviour, and early marriages. A lack of relevant (context adapted) Life Skills brought risks of teenage pregnancies, STDs and HIV-related problems. 

RET’s objective was to help protect and provide education opportunities to out-of-school refugee adolescents and youth.

Resources used 

US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration provided funding to support the project.  

During the programme’s first phase, RET and NRC agreed to adapt “Youth Pack” life skills materials to the specific forced displacement context and to the Sudanese refugee adolescents and youth profiles.  

During the programme’s second phase, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sudanese Ministry of Education (MoE), guaranteed Sudanese refugees attending RET’s Grade 8 course could take certified examinations and obtain a recognized primary education certificate. 

A MoU with Sudanese MoE gave RET permission to run formal schools in camps and organize accredited primary and secondary exams. 

During programme’s third phase, UNHCR and Chadian MoE decision to shift from the Sudanese to Chadian curriculum allowed the transition from a humanitarian, repatriation focused approach towards a development, local integration perspective.   

A woman in a classroom looks at the camera


  • Ministry of Education, Sudan 
  • Ministry of Education, Chad 
  • International African University (IAU) in Khartoum 
  • UNHCR 
  • Alliance Française 
  • NRC 

Challenges and how they were overcome 

Challenge 1: At the initial stages of the crisis, RET undertook a survey concluding developing formal secondary education in the camps was not possible in the short-term due to high illiteracy. 

Challenge 2: A shortage of trained teachers existed throughout all programme phases (2005 -2018). 

Challenge 3: “Gendered expectations” left girls with little or no time to pursue their education at primary and post-primary level. 

Challenge 4: Lack of accredited education opportunities for refugee adolescents and youth in the refugee camps. 

RET started with a Life Skills program comprised of literacy, numeracy, and useful daily life skills. By working with Sudanese MoE RET was permitted to administer Grade 8 exams to learners completing RET’s Life Skills, an equivalent to Sudanese curriculum Grade 8. This reduced border crossing and the associated protection risks.  

When Sudanese refugee learners started obtaining Grade 8 certificates, RET negotiated with Sudanese MoE to open accredited secondary schools and administer accredited Grade 11 exams recognised by the MoE in Sudan, Chad and other Arabic-speaking countries. When shifting to the Chadian curriculum RET conduced awareness campaigns, language trainings, and provided support to students and teachers. By providing secondary education RET meet needs and provided youth a safe opportunity to complete their education.   

Shortages of trained teachers prompted RET to recruit and train youth that possessed the required level of education and motivation to facilitate learning. RET recruited learners who completed Secondary Education Distance Learning Programme to became educators. Educators received annual pedagogical in-service trainings and formal training from Sudanese MoE, education partners, and Chadian MoE. 

RET established girl committees to conduct awareness-raising campaigns, sensitizing the community on the importance of girls schooling. They identified at risks girls and provided support to remain in school.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Life-Skills program granted 20,550 out-of-school youth (59% women) the opportunity to learn to read, write and gain knowledge on useful daily life skills health, environment, peace-building, human rights.  
  • RET positively boosted youth's self-esteem and self-determination. 
  • 91% of students passed Grade 8 examinations and eligible for secondary education.  
  • Girls’ access to secondary education significantly increased - enrolment rate of 60%. 
  • Chadian governmental department in charge of supervising the work of the NGO, verified that RET’s education programme contributed actively to the improvement of refugees’ life prospects. 

Next steps 

Donor’s support ended in 2018. RET’s schools were handed to Chadian MoE, supported by UNHCR and education partners. RET continues raising awareness on the need for quality, inclusive education for vulnerable youth in chad. RET expertise is available for new interventions in Chad if funding is allocated. 

A woman sitting in a classroom studying

Submitted by: 

Lauren Burns, Knowledge Management Manager, RET