Girls in rural Somalia spend much of their time helping around the house. But thanks to funding from Education Cannot Wait, many girls can now get an education. Credit: Save the Children
MOGADISHU, Jun 8, 2021 (IPS) – Ten-year-old Sabah Abdi from Ali Isse, a small rural village on the Somaliland-Ethiopian border, did well in her most recent exams and took third place in her local village school with 400 students.
But it was only three years ago that Sabah spent her days helping around the house and tending goats instead of studying because her shepherd family could not afford their school fees.
“I am very happy to be among the three best students at the village school. When I grow up, I hope to become a doctor and heal the sick in the village, ”Sabah told IPS.
Droughts and food insecurity prevent children from going to school in Somaliland
Repeated droughts, food insecurity, water scarcity, poverty and inequality hamper efforts to get more Somali children into schools. Families in this part of Somaliland depend on their cattle for basic food and income, and many move from place to place in search of good rain and grazing land.
In July 2019, the Somaliland government, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – and UNICEF Somaliland launched a multi-year resilience program to improve access to quality education for children and young people caused by ongoing crises in Somaliland.
The nationwide net attendance rate in primary education is estimated at 49 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. Only 16 percent of internally displaced people and 26 percent of children in rural communities attend elementary schools.
When fully funded, ECW’s $ 64 million three-year education program will reach 198,440 children (50 percent of whom are girls) by the end of the third year, including 21,780 through ECW seed funding. Currently, 18,946 students – 46 percent of whom are girls – have benefited from the program in 69 target schools in six regions. Of these, 6,342 (3,074 girls) not school-age children were enrolled in a school.
In addition, ECW has made two other similar multi-year investments in Puntland and the Somali Federal Government and Member States of $ 60 million and $ 67.5 million, respectively. The three programs are coordinated in their outcomes and focus on improving access to free education for the most disadvantaged children and young people, including pastoral communities.
“The positive effects of ECW’s multi-year investments in Somalia and the noticeable difference we are making with our partners in the lives of Sabah and so many other marginalized girls and boys are heartwarming and inspiring. For the first time, many of these children and young people can learn and develop in a safe, protective and inclusive environment, ”said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “But there is still so much to do. I call on the strategic donor partners to join our efforts and fund the three programs in full. Together we can restore hope for a better future for the most vulnerable children and youth in Somalia. ”
The Hani School in the Sanaag region, Somalia. Credit: Save the Children Free school thanks to ECW funding
The elementary school Sabah attends offers free tuition thanks to the support of ECW. It enabled her and other children from this rural community to start learning.
Sabah’s mother, Anab Jama, said she can now keep her children at the village school while her husband travels with the animals in search of fresh food and water. “I stayed behind to take care of the children at school. I don’t want them to miss out on free education, ”Jama told IPS.
Last year, ECW funding supported the distribution of educational packages by local partners and the Somali Ministry of Education during the COVID-19 lockdown to allow children to continue their studies until schools reopen in late 2020. The kits included books and solar lamps.
“When the pandemic hit Somaliland, we closed the school and sent the children home,” Mohamed Abdi Egal, the headmaster of Ali Isse Primary School, told IPS. “We couldn’t offer the students any other way to continue learning. That was the biggest disturbance we’ve seen. When we resumed in late 2020, we started maintaining social distancing and hand washing.
“Education is considered an essential element for community development, but when emergencies like COVID-19 arise, it shows how it hinders the provision of basic services, including education,” Egal told IPS.
Thanks to the funding, 11,052 students, 4,568 of them girls, were able to take their central final exams of the 8th grade in the state of Puntland, Somalia. Credit: Save the ChildrenSchooling tailored to the needs of pastoral families
A year after the 2019 program started, the number of children enrolling in the pastoral community increased significantly – from 12% to 50% due to the program design, “said Safia Jibril Abdi, UNICEF Education Specialist and responsible for managing the ECW-funded program in Somaliland.
“Education always needs long-term planning. In the areas affected by the drought, families are out and about, while the children do the hard work, such as grazing animals. Girls are the core of rural families when it comes to household chores, ”continues Abdi.
“We started afternoon classes at the beginning of the school year and hired teachers. When education timing became the lifestyle of rural families, it had an impact and is much better for rural children. ”
The program was aimed at children aged 10 and over and those who, given their nomadic way of life, could successfully complete their secondary education in five years.
Local parishioners in 15 locations across Somaliland have set up education committees to ensure the long-term sustainability of education here.
“The aim was to improve children’s access to education in a safe environment. Also, the most important thing is to make the project sustainable for the local community, ”Abdi told IPS. “Girls in school have specific needs, such as sanitary napkins that we provide them with. This helps teenage girls never miss an ongoing class during their period. ”
The UNICEF education specialist said the benefits of the collaborative approach, in which the various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, rural communities and civil society organizations, worked with and with funds from the ECW to provide education for children affected by the crisis, the initiative have done successfully.
“It is a sad reality that every second child in Somaliland has no opportunity to free education. With the launch of the ECW program, we can now reach these marginalized children, many of whom live in conflict and in the countryside.” Areas, ”she said.
Meanwhile, Save the Children, an ECW partner who works in the Somali state of Puntland, has launched several distance learning initiatives, including uploading lessons online to help students continue their studies despite COVID-19 lockdowns.
11,052 schoolchildren, 4,568 of them girls, were able to take their central final exams in grade 8.
“We have developed an online learning program as part of the ECW fund targeting primary schools in Puntland. Currently, 15,604 students, including 6,924 girls, have access to education with the support of ECW in Puntland, ”Ahmed Mohamed Farah, manager of Save the Children’s ECW Education Consortium in Puntland, Somalia, told IPS.
As the ECW implementing agency, Save the Children aims to strengthen the education system of the government of Puntland and improve quality by monitoring early school leaving and managing the education system in the four target regions in Northeast Somalia.
Farah said ECW funds were also used to pay exam fees for 1,000 students from 51 target schools across Somalia.
“Certain students from low-income families and those from the remote areas were unable to register for their national elementary school exams due to registration fees, so we were able to cover their exam fees.
“Six of the ten first years were girls. That’s the effect, ”said Farah.
To learn more about Education Cannot Wait’s work for children and adolescents experiencing emergencies and protracted crises, please visit: educationcannotwait.org and follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter.
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