STORY: SOMALIA- GO 2 SCHOOL INITIATIVE
SOURCE: AU/UN IST
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LANGUAGE: SOMALI/ ENGLISH/NATS
DATELINE: 14 NOVEMBER 2013/MOGADISHU/ SOMALIA
The sight of children intently chanting a lesson in a classroom is a common sight around the world often taken for granted.
In an IDP camp in Mogadishu’s Hamar Jajab neighborhood, children get ready for school. The excitement around the camp as uniformed children stream to go to school is palpable. A few weeks ago, these children couldn’t go to school but thanks to an ambitious program, a million Somali children will get access to education over the next three years.
“Three of my children go to school now. Previously they just used to play football and roam around. But since this initiative started, I am very happy. I enrolled them for the free education. They go for the afternoon shift from 12pm to 5pm and their progress is fine,” says Fadumo Siyad, a resident at the Hamar Jajab IDP camp.
Following two decades of incessant conflict in Somalia, school enrollment rates are among the lowest in the world. Just four out of ten children are in school. In September, the Somali government launched the Go2School Initiative. The initiative supported by UNICEF and other organizations aims at reducing the number of children out of school.
“This is going to be a huge initiative. If we are going to correct problems in this country, we’ll need to educate the young people,” says Mohamed Abdulkadir Noor, Director General at the Ministry of Education. “There’s a proverb that says, if you want to do something useful in a year, plant a maize crop. If you want to do something useful for a decade, plant a big tree like a mango tree. But if you want to do something useful for a lifetime, provide education for people,” he adds.
So far, more than 33,000 children have been enrolled in the program, most of them in the capital, Mogadishu. The war destroyed most of the schools and facilities are scarce. In a bid to cover the gaping inadequacy, private schools are offering their space in the afternoons for the initiative, an arrangement made convenient by Somalia’s already existent double-shift education system.
But the barriers to education in Somalia transcend beyond the abolition of school fees. Money to buy school uniforms and stationery is far out of reach for most parents. The government is unable to provide such incentives leaving out the schools on a limb.
“The government announced the project and we got registration books and chalk but we haven’t received anything else from them,” explains Amina Sharif Zubeir, deputy principal of the Mohamud Mire School.
The situation is much better at the Kaaraan School, one of the biggest schools in the city. 1,700 students have enrolled there and the 50 teachers all receive a monthly salary from the government. Despite the teething problems, the school’s principal, Mohamed Ahmed Hirabe is brimming with confidence about the potential of the initiative.
“Students are flowers; they’re a beautiful sight. In this district, we never used to see children wearing uniform, carrying backpacks and books as they crossed the road and headed to school. The change now is that we see a lot of students carrying books and receiving education; it’s a beautiful sight and we are proud of that,” says Mohamud Ahmed Hirabe, principal of Kaaraan School.
It is too early to measure the program’s success but the scenes around the city’s schools indicate a step in the right direction. As Somalia firmly etches itself on the long path of reconstruction and development, substantial investment in education is no longer just a blueprint but an urgent priority.