Thousands of children whose pastoralist families have lost their livestock and been displaced in southern Somalia’s Gedo region have been given the chance to go to school.
Sixteen schools, built of wood and iron sheets, have been constructed in the IDP camps in the region’s four main towns, Bardera, Luq, Dollow and Beled-Hawo. The project, run by local organisation Hirda and funded by UNICEF, will provide free education for up to 4,800 students.
The primary schools for children aged six to 15 opened last October, after the recruitment of 105 locally hired teachers paid a monthly salary of $100 by UNICEF.
Hiish Mohamed, head of the Hirda school programme in Gedo, said parents struggling to feed their families cannot afford the usual school fees of five to 10 dollars for their children. He said destitute families migrating to the towns will be able to enrol their children.
The displaced include victims of the 2011 famine as well as those affected by the more recent and current drought.
The four schools in the four camps in Bardera host 897 boys and girls. Among them is Fardowso Abdulahi, 14, in second grade. She has never attended a school before and is handling a book and pen for the first time.
“I am very happy to get education. Before joining school I used to stay at home and help my mother with household chores. I would like to become a teacher in the future and teach displaced children and children from poor families,” she said.
When the schools opened in the area, her parents took the opportunity for Fardowso and her nine-year-old brother to get free education, as they could not have afforded school fees.
Fardowso’s family earns between $5 and $10 for a day’s work in local farm fields. But the work is seasonal and casual. They were displaced three years ago from War-gududo village, 98 km east of Bardera, when their 87 goats and cows died in the drought in 2015.
Maryan Harded Ahmed has three children enrolled in the free schools. She said although times are tough she is happy to see her children get an education. Before the drought they owned 300 goats, 50 camels and 30 cows, but only eight camels survived. The family depends on the little income they get from washing clothing’s, selling tree sap, and working in farm fields.