Roger (15) Fled War in Burundi. What is Next For Him?

Following the end of a 12-year-long civil war in 2005, Burundi has continued to experience brutal human rights abuses and political unrest. Roger's family originally included his father, mother and seven siblings. But after rebel’s raided their home in Burundi, Roger and his parents found the other six children hanged in the barn. They ran, unable to say goodbye or bury his siblings – eventually arriving in Uganda.

In 2015, the re-election of the president and a failed army coup caused a series of armed conflicts. Many Burundians fled in search of security. Now, they find themselves in crowded refugee sites in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Uganda. Much like Roger (15) and his parents…

Tablet education - Can't Wait to Learn - War Child in Uganda

Roger from Burundi receives tablet education with Can't Wait to Learn.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

100.000 refugees in one camp

Some 100,000 refugees live in a camp in western Uganda. Every week about 1,000 more arrive, mainly families seeking refuge from war and conflict in Congo, South Sudan and Burundi. Roger is 15 years old and fled Burundi together with his parents. A year on, they remain in Uganda.

Roger with family fled to Uganda - War Child support

For a year now, Roger is living in Uganda together with his parents.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Rebel raid

The family originally included Roger’s father, mother and seven children. But after rebel’s raided their home in Burundi, Roger and his parents found the other six children hanged in the barn. They ran, unable to say goodbye or bury his siblings – eventually arriving in Uganda.

Roger and family from Burundi lives in refugee settlement in Uganda - War Child

Roger and his parents built their home from some plastic sheeting, wooden poles and rope; they have to be creative and self-sufficient.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

New existence

First, they registered as refugees. Then they were given a piece of land – part of a unique reception model in Uganda - and basic materials to build a house such as plastic sheeting, wooden poles and rope. Refugees have to be creative in order to shape their piece of land. That is their new existence. They grow their own food and strive to become self-sufficient – with the limited means granted to them.

Refugee child Roger fled from Burundi to Uganda - War Child

Roger in his makeshift house of barely 4m2 in Uganda.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Makeshift house

The house Roger and his family live in now is small. On barely 4m2 they do everything. A tent the size of a vegetable garden. The house won't last long; the plastic is leaking and the wooden poles can't carry the weight. They have to look for new materials themselves.

Refugees from Burundi - War Child Uganda

Burundese refugees cuing up at WorldVision for food.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Shortage of food and water

World Vision gives them food, but it’s not enough for the whole month. Last week, they searched the area for food. There is also a shortage of drinking water. People in the camp are entitled to 14 liters of water per week but currently they receive just ten.

Burundian refugees in refugee settlement in Uganda - War Child

Rogers dad tries to forget what happened but in reality he can't.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Pick up the thread

Roger’s father is having a hard time. There is little distraction for parents and therefore little opportunity to pick up the thread again. He tries to look forward, not back. But when he thinks back to everything that happened in Burundi, his memories haunt him. That's why he forces himself to believe he can forget, leave it all behind. Even though, in reality, he can’t.

Roger with his father during Can't Wait to Learn - War Child

Roger is accompanied by his dad in school at the launch of Can't Wait to Learn.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Never loose sight

On top of this, he’s extremely worried about his son. Roger's the only child he has left. Father never loses sight of Roger and even sleeps next to him. Anything to make sure he's safe and doing okay. Roger is learning to get used to that and is going to school. And that’s why we met both of them at the launch of Can't Wait to Learn.

Can't Wait to Learn in Uganda

Can't Wait to Learn

Over 32 million children are out of school as a result of conflict. The reason why we developed Can’t Wait to Learn, a programme which offers children affected by conflict the chance to learn to read and count by playing educational games on tablet devices. Thanks to a delivery system that can operate in resource constrained settings, the programme provides quality education to all children – no matter where they are. And, if they’ve fallen behind, they can catch up. Just like Roger.

Morris, facilitator for War Child in Uganda


His father is happy that Roger can join TeamUp as well as Can't Wait to Learn. War Child facilitators see that Roger is quiet and withdrawn and finds it difficult to trust other children. The games help him with that. Each game is based on a theme such as assertiveness, stress and friendship. The skills he gains at TeamUp are useful in daily life.

Burundi refugee Roger now participates in TeamUp - War Child

Roger enjoys TeamUp and is making friends because of it.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Shaking off tension

Roger’s favourite game is Aipepeta: a song you sing together in a circle. You have an imaginary object which you place on different parts of your body throughout the game – and then release. Roger feels free during the session and can literally shake off any tension he has. After 45 minutes of TeamUp, he walks to school with a friend, shoulder to shoulder.

Tablet education - Can't Wait to Learn - War Child in Uganda

Thanks to TeamUp and Can't Wait to Learn Roger dares to dream again: he wants to become a doctor.

Photo: Michael Jessurun

Dare to dream

Both programmes give Roger more confidence. In the people around him, but also in himself. Despite the difficult situation he and his parents find themselves in and the terrible things they've been through, Roger dares to dream again. His biggest dream of all – to become a doctor.

*All names in this story have been changed to preserve the safety of the children who take part in our programmes.