Tent Schools International

Former refugee brings education to his own in Tanzania

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Norbert Mbwiliza is a former refugee working in the oldest refugee camp in the world.

Founded in 1972, Katumba Camp in Tanzania is the oldest refugee camp in the world, hosting 84,000 refugees from Burundi who have fled civil unrest. Many residents have spent their entire lives in the camp.

Norbert Mbwiliza was born in Tanzania in 1973, one year after his parents fled Burundi 

“One of the things I will never forget: a non-refugee neighbor’s goat ate my mother’s corn, and instead of my mother being compensated, she was arrested and brought to the police station,” Norbert said. “This showed me how difficult the life of a refugee is.”

A sense of purpose for Norbert

As Norbert grew older, he was able to go to school with the help of UNHCR, receiving his teacher’s certificate after graduation. A sense of purpose began to reveal itself in Norbert’s life, sourced from his childhood experiences as a refugee. 

“I wanted to defend refugees like me in Tanzania,” he said. “In 1999 I started the ministry of Norbert and Friends, teaching refugees to live by faith and rely on God.” 

Norbert and Friends, a new partner of TSI, supports Msaginya Primary School and Tumaini Secondary School, serving 1,500 displaced children in Katumba Camp. The goal is to help them heal from past trauma so they can excel in school.

Refugee Stats:

  • There are 110 million forcibly displaced people worldwide due to persecution, conflict, and human rights violations.
  • Nearly half of all displaced people are children, and almost half of those children are not in school.
  • 52% of all displaced people are from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.
  • 75% of refugees are hosted in low and middle-income countries, many in the Middle East.

Source: UNHCR 2023

Msaginya Primary School and Tumaini Secondary School in Katumba Camp, Tanzania

"I want to defend refugees like me in Tanzania."
- Norbert Mbwiliza

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