When he arrived at this United Nations camp in western Uganda in 1997, Joseph Munyambanza had been able to attend only poor-quality schools.
Eight years later, he and other young refugee students wanted to help children who also faced dismal education prospects, so they started a club with activities focusing on education. In 2009, they expanded that effort to create their own school called Coburwas – a combination of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan, the countries of origin for many of the refugees in the camp. Today, Coburwas has 530 primary and secondary students.
“We studied in overcrowded schools and were taught by unqualified teachers,” said Munyambanza, who fled North Kivu, in a war-torn region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when he was six. He was still a teenager when he and other refugee youths started Coburwas “to create [a] homelike environment for the most vulnerable children in the community to access education.”
Munyambanza and his colleagues used to work for farmers to raise money to buy textbooks, exercise books and other basic supplies to outfit the school.