Mahamat with an HI agent in the displcaed people camp in Kousseri | © HI
Mahamat (not his real name) is 13 years old. After fleeing his village after attacks by armed groups, he is now living in a camp for displaced people in Kousseri, on the shores of Lake Chad.
For the past three years, Mahamat has been living in a camp in Kousseri, on the shores of Lake Chad. He is being looked after by his grandmother, who also looks after two of his cousins. He lives in a modest hut made of branches. The little family tries to lead a normal life.
The site is home to more than 7,000 internally displaced people, all of whom have fled their villages on Lake Chad because of gang violence, but also because the lake is gradually drying up . Currently, there are more than 500,000 displaced people or refugees from neighbouring countries (mainly Niger) in Chad.
Everyone hopes to return home one day when the security situation improves. But for the foreseeable future, this is not an option.
The camp where Mahamat lives is organised into blocks, each managed by a chief. For almost everyone living here, - with the exception of a few families who manage to make a living from fishing - humanitarian aid is essential. The people have no access to drinking water, for example.
Mahamat during his functional rehabilitation sessions at Bagasola hospital. He is cared for by a physiotherapist supported by HI.
Mahamat started school in 2021, with the help of HI . He tells us how he ended up in the classroom:
"One day, I saw other children coming back from school with satchels. They showed me their school gear: books, pencils and things. I asked them where they had got all this stuff, and they told me at school and showed me the way.”
With his grandmother’s encouragement, he went to see the school’s administrator and enrolled that same day. Proud of himself, he went home to show his grandmother the school kit provided by HI, including a schoolbag, a slate and chalk, and told her that he had enrolled.
This would be the first time Mahamat ever set foot in a classroom. HI also decided to provide the young boy with medical care. He has been given crutches, a walker and functional rehabilitation sessions.
Classes start at 7.30am in Mahamat’s school, and finish at 12.30pm. In theory, his class has 140 pupils, but there are at least fifty every day. His teacher, Ousman, is a local man:
”The teacher is nice to me. He asks me questions and often calls me to the blackboard. He pays attention to me. He has put me in the front row so that I can follow the lesson more easily. I feel at home here.”
Mahamat is waiting for the Non-Formal Basic Education (EBNF) classes (catch-up courses) to be set up; meanwhile he has joined the first grade. He walks to school on his crutches every day. It takes him 30 minutes because of the distance and because of his disability.
Mahamat eats at the school canteen – mainly couscous with fresh smoked fish sauce.
Mahamat is learning to read and write at school. His favourite subjects are drawing, writing and arithmetic. He also loves pottery. Now that he's at school, he has lots of friends to play with.
Mahamat has registered in second grade for the next school year. He is hoping to finish his education because he knows he will need it to fulfil his dreams.
”I'd like to pass on what I've learnt, and raise goats and become a rich businessman to provide for my whole family! And for that, I know I need to go to school.”
Before the start of the new school year, the teachers, including Mahamat's teacher, will attend a three-week training course run by HI. The training covers not only basic teaching skills, but also psychological first aid, hygiene and, most importantly, how best to include children with disabilities.
HI also provide them with teaching tools for raising the awareness of the other children and creating a protective and inclusive educational environment for all.
Funded by the European Union, the PROSCOLAC project helps more than 9,500 children (including around 4,700 girls and 1,900 vulnerable children or children with disabilities). It aims to contribute to the physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection of children affected by the humanitarian crisis in Lake Chad province, particularly in the departments of Fouli and Kaya, which have been particularly hard hit by insecurity and population displacement.
This project aims to improve access to school, the quality of education and the psychosocial balance and resilience of children.
Handicap International (HI) has been working in Chad since the 1990s in the sectors of inclusive and emergency education, mine action, victim assistance, peacebuilding, physical and functional rehabilitation and the socio-economic inclusion of vulnerable people and people with disabilities. We are currently running projects in N'Djamena and the provinces of Lac, Logone Oriental, Kanem, Bahr el Gazal and the regions of Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti (BET)