Education Cannot Wait- allowing children to dream

Tuesday 18 September 2018

When I asked Asad about his dreams, his eyes lit up immediately.  He smiled and gave that look of enthusiasm, excitement and hope.  “I want to be a doctor,” he says.  “Yes. Now I know if I work hard, I can make it.”  This is a change in Asad. Some months ago, he wasn’t sure if he will continue with school, let alone dream of becoming a doctor. Asad, a third born in a family of eight is a fifth grade student at Al-Hikma Primary School. He is able to continue with school and able to dream for a better future because his family can now afford to the required USD 13 a month for his school fees—thanks to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) project under the Somalia Humanitarian Fund.

Samira also goes to Al-Hikma school. Like Asad, her family also benefits from ECW project. I find her in class busy with her class assignment.  Samira’s family were pastoralists. However they were forced to move to Nugal region at the peak of the 2016/2017 drought that killed their entire livestock—their only source of livelihood. Thanks to the project support, Samira is now back in school where she belongs. She says everyone in her class is much happier. The school environment has been uplifted and children are now encouraged to go to school knowing they will get a healthy meal of dates, milk and water. “I love to play during break time. Skipping rope is my favourite sport,” she says.

Samira is 13 years old, right, and her class mate Nasra, attends Al-Hikma Primary school. She is in the Fifth grade, her favourite class is literacy and she aspires to become a professor.  The school was supported by ECW project as part of drought response in Somalia. 

Both Asad and Samira know that they are very fortunate to be among the families that receive support from ECW project, which is targeting families, affected by the recent drought, which left more than half of Somalia’s population in need of humanitarian aid.

The project in Nugal, implemented by Save the Children has been supporting some 7484 children for the past 11 months as part of the ongoing drought response interventions by Somalia Humanitarian Fund. The project was implemented to ensure children, from drought affected families, are not deprived of their education and it provided equal opportunities for boys and girls to learn. The ECW project built on existing activities in schools by providing basic services such as safe clean water, food, hygiene promotion; support to Community Education Committees, provision of teaching and learning materials (TLM), provision of emergency teachers incentives, provision of recreational materials, training teachers on psycho-social support and establishment of Temporary Learning Spaces.

Samira’s father works as a porter in Garowe. He says he can only afford one meal a day for his children. But believes in the importance of education that is why he supports Samira, escorting her to school and attending school meetings whenever possible. Somalia has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.  Many school age children, particularly girls stay out of school because their parents cannot afford school fees. In Puntland alone, 42% of the school-aged children do not go to school.

‘’I’m glad things have changed now. Save the Children came to the school where my daughter goes and brought milk, dates and sugar. They also brought clean drinking water. My daughter and her friends are so happy.  At least they are able to get food while in the school. This is making them focus on schooling and class work,’’ says Idris, Samira’s father.

Students at Al-Hikma primary school during the break time. The programme helped keep over 7000 drought affected school children in schools in Nugal, Mudug and Karkar region, Puntland.  

Farhan Haji Abdi, is the principal of Al-Hikma school. He has been working here for the past 10 years. He says Save the Children support came at the right time, when the school could no longer survive. “The gap between the students who can afford schooling and the ones who cannot has been closed,” says Farhan.  “Before ECW support, we had only two classes for children, but now we have five classes. Many of them are newly enrolled because families can now afford it to pay school fees. The communities have trusted the school because this project provides the answers to parents’ prayers. The dropout rate for the year was nearly zero, and the student feels encouraged to get higher grades.”