Farhiya, 13, had never gone to school before. She lives with her parents and six siblings in Awdinle village, some 30km from Baidoa town of South West State of Somalia. There was no fully functioning school available for the local children, she lost any hope to ever get education. She stayed at home and helped her mother with the household chores.
In Somalia, primary school enrolment ratio is among world’s lowest. About 70 per cent of school-aged children are out of school. That is 3 million of 4.4 million children. The numbers are grimmer in rural areas or IDP settlements, where only 17 per cent of children are enrolled in primary schools. Education gaps and needs are largely a consequence of lack of adequate learning facilities, teachers, basic emergency teaching and learning materials, but also insecurity, lack of food and water, as well as limited sanitation facilities.
In August 2018, the village school in Awdinle was rehabilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), benefiting from new classrooms and water storage facilities. With support from the Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF), the Rural Education and Agriculture Development Organization (READO) – a local NGO – complemented IOM’s efforts by distributing learning materials and study kits (books, pencils, pens, sharpeners, erasers, geometrical sets, rulers and school bags) to 1,266 children in Lowilay, Daryel, Imamu-Malik and Awdinle schools in Baidoa district; and ten teachers from those schools received a monthly incentive of $120.
Thanks to the SHF, 13 school latrines were constructed, while READO provided weekly water supplies (10,000 liters) to four community schools. Now students have clean, potable water during their studies. This intervention provided access to safe and protective learning environment to 600 students successfully enrolled in the Awdinle school in 2018.
Farhiya and her siblings were among the first students between the ages of 6 and 20 years who enrolled in the newly-rehabilitated school. “Farhiya and her sisters and brothers did not know how to write and read. However, over the last few months they have made significant progress and now they are literate,” said Mr. Yusuf Haji, Awdinle primary school principle. “Farhiya was among the top students of her class after the examinations.”
“I want to develop myself through education and I know I deserve to learn”, Farhiya told a member of the READO team. “I am grateful to my teachers and parents who are helping me to get education and to those who supported our school, because without their help this could not have been possible.”
More than 50 per cent of the students in the Awdinle school are girls. Hussein, READO Project Manager, emphasized that programmes that enhance access to basic education for girls stand a strong chance of success, in line with the Somali proverb that says “Educating a girl means educating the whole nation.” Reflecting on Farhiya’s big hopes and aspirations for education, he pointed out: “Successful learners are not extraordinary individuals who were blessed with plenty of talent, wealth or opportunity. They are people just like you and me, who believed in their dreams and never stopped pursuing the fulfilment of those visions. This girl worked hard and struggled a lot and will have a good future if adequately supported.”