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Chad: they took our country from us

Mutara Haru is a student enrolled in JRS's higher education program in Djabal camp. Jesuit Refugee Service provides primary education in addition to the higher ed classes at Djabal refugee camp, just outside of Goz Beida, Chad. (Jacquelyn Pavilon — Jesuit Refugee Service)
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
(Goz Beida, Chad) November 2, 2016 — The militants were moving around from village to village where we lived in Darfur. We lived every day, hearing gunshots in the distance, hoping we weren’t next. That was wishful thinking. Soon enough, they of course arrived to our village, Omharu, burning everything they didn’t want to steal. Ten of my neighbors died; I can name all those men.

I was thinking in that moment I would surely be killed. At that time, they mostly killed men and boys, not to say they didn’t do other horrible things to women. I was eight at the time. To disguise me, my mother put a headscarf on me to appear to be a girl, and we left in an instant. There was no time to think, just to go. My family got separated in the chaos.

We walked for four days, traveling only during daylight. We stayed close to the trees and hid at night. My mother was smart enough to bring a dry milk powder, which we mixed with water. That sustained us for those four days. Everyone was taking relatively the same route, and thank God, we reunited with the rest of my family along the way.

After walking for days, we made it across the border. There were NGOs there immediately to meet us, register us, and take us to Goz Beida camp. They gave us plastic to construct a tent and a refugee card, but otherwise, we had nothing.

That was back in 2004. My name is Mutara Haru, and now I’m 20 years old.

There was not schooling where I was in Sudan. I didn’t even know what education was. In the rainy season we’d farm, and in the dry season we’d graze cattle, and that was life.

In 2008, there was a man in the camp who offered informal English language courses for two hours every night, just outside his house in the camp. He did it out of his own good will. That was how I learned English at the start. As I improved my language skills, I started working on a case by case basis for many the NGOs here, including the International Organization for Migration, the International Rescue Committee, HIAS and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but those are always just short missions.

My English was “good enough,” but I knew that it was not yet at the level I wanted it to be, so I enrolled in the Jesuit Refugee Service — Jesuit Commons Higher Education at the Margins (JRS-JC:HEM) English language program in 2013, and I am in the currently most advanced level. I know with this universal skill I can expand my job opportunities. Now, in addition to interpreting part time, I am working as a volunteer English teacher at the JRS primary school.

I’ve been in the camp 12 years now. If there were peace in Sudan, I’d go back in a heartbeat. There I’d have full rights, and I deserve that. We all do. Here we are so limited. We can’t participate politically or work in many sectors. Because of these limitations, I’d prefer to move somewhere else like the USA or Canada, places where there are human rights, better educational opportunities and a future, but most importantly, where there is always safety.

Some people see refugees as nothing, but life is full of risks. You don’t know when anything can happen, and tomorrow this could be you. That is why it is important to welcome and provide education.

Education is the key to life. Without education, you can’t express yourself. You can’t even tell the other side how you’re suffering to ask for help. It is because we were uneducated as a nation that we’re here. We as a people didn’t know how to advocate for our rights as a country, as a consequence of our ignorance, they took our country from us. As educated people, we can take it back, rebuild a new life, and prevent further clashes.

by Mutara Haru, JRS-JC:HEM English student in Goz Beida camp, Chad
Interview transcribed by Jacquelyn Pavilon, JRS International Communications Coordinator

You can support refugee education in West Africa and around the world. Please click here to make a secure online donation today.

Jesuit Refugee Service provides education to more than 37,000 refugees In the West Africa region. In Chad specifically, JRS operates its largest education program globally. Education projects range from early childhood education to tertiary education to non-formal formal education activities, including peace and reconciliation workshops.

The JRS Global Education Initiative seeks to strengthen education projects in West Africa by increasing school attendance, the overall quality of education, and the employability of refugees in the region, while simultaneously fostering a more peaceful coexistence of diverse communities in Chad and Cameroon.

In West Africa, the cost of providing

• pre-school education for a child is $20/year 

• primary school student in Cameroon, displaced from the Central African Republic, is $50/month

• a specially-trained refugee educator in Cameroon is less than $100/month

• post-secondary English language classes to a student in Chad is $250/year

• a semester of secondary education to young women and decreasing the chances her falling victim to child labor, child marriage, or survival sex is $1,000/year

Thank you for providing refugee education and investing in peace.