(ERGO) – Thousands of displaced children in the IDP camps around Garowe, in north eastern Somalia’s Puntland region, are not going to school because of pressure on them to earn income for their impoverished parents and siblings.
Behani Ahmed Barre, director of IDP affairs department at the Puntland ministry of internal affairs, told Radio Ergo that child labour is common in the camps.
“The parents have been faced with the dilemma of getting livelihoods through their children, or making them attend schools,” he said.
Mohamed Ahmed, principal of Shabelle School, the biggest of the three free primary schools serving the IDP camps, has just over 500 students. Mohamed said this is half the number of students the school was expecting.
Educations officials say they are involved in creating awareness among the parents in the camps during the school holidays to encourage more enrolment.
However, parents say that free schools always have expenses that they cannot afford.
Four of Amino Rukun’s seven children are of school age but none of them is in school. She told Radio Ergo that her eldest son, 13, had been in school but had to drop out in 2016 to help the family. Amino said she was struggling to pay for his books, pens and other expenses of being at school.
The boy is now earning around $3 a day washing cars. Amino used to collect garbage in the camp but now takes care of the small children, while her husband gets casual work on construction sites but earns very little.
Another boy, Mohamed-Dek Gaah, 12, told Radio Ergo he wakes early in the morning and goes to Garowe city to wash cars. He makes between $5 – 10 a day that he brings home to support his family in Jawle camp.
Mohamed dropped out of school in second grade in 2015 so that he could support his five younger siblings, who have never been to school. He told Radio Ergo he would like to study, but the living situation of his family forces him to go to the city instead of going to school.
The three IDP schools in Garowe have a combined enrolment of just 858 students. The total population of the camps is estimated at around 15-16,000. Around 5,000 would be of school age.
Mohamed Ahmed told Radio Ergo that only 40 students from Shabelle School were able to move on to middle school last year, after getting support from the school management and camp leaders. Another 35 students who were also to graduate are still waiting for clearance.
Those attending school beyond the primary classes available in the camps have to pay the $20 monthly fees to attend private schools in Garowe.
Groups of children from the camps can be seen around the city in the morning and afternoon.
Around 65% of those living in the camps are illiterate, according to the most recent ministry survey.
The majority of the IDP population fled conflict, famine and drought, and other natural disasters in Puntland and South Central Somalia since 2000.