"At school, I raise awareness about the rights of children with disabilities,” -Ikran*, 13, Somalia.
In the first seven years of her life, 13-year-old Ikran* has been through two life-changing events. At the age of six, her beloved mother fell ill, and despite all efforts, she succumbed to the illness, leaving Ikran* devastated. A year later, she was diagnosed with an eye condition that made everyday life a struggle and if untreated, would lead to complete loss of her vision.
Although one of those was a rite of passage, seven-year-old Ikran* felt like her world came crashing down.
After the death of her mother, with no one else to turn to, Ikran*’s father, a soldier in the army and often away, sent her and her ten siblings to live with their grandmother, who owned a small shop in a nearby neighborhood.
Ikran*’s eyesight had always been a bit blurry, but it wasn't until she was seven years old that the problem became too big to ignore. She started to have trouble seeing things that were far away, and even up close, things would often appear fuzzy and distorted.
Moreover, Ikran* suffered from tremendous eye pain as well as swelling around her eyes. She had frequent headaches and was often fatigued.
After a visit to the doctor, they were told that her condition was the result of an eye disease called "glaucoma" that caused low vision (almost 30% of visual acuity was lost); nevertheless, her grandmother was struggling to make ends meet and medical bills were something they could not afford, so they were unable to cover the cost of her treatment.
Despite the constant pain, Ikran* enjoyed going to school with her older siblings. But unlike her siblings and classmates, she encountered many difficulties. Writing from the blackboard was impossible when she could not see most of what was written, and each day she left the class with a blank page.
Regardless, she dreamed of a future where she completed her education. But her dreams were hindered due to her condition and her grandmother’s reluctance of her going to school, afraid for her safety and wellbeing as the way to the school was across a highway and through rough roads.
Ikran* was enrolled in a Save the Children-supported school; her school and transportation fees were covered, and she received all the necessary educational materials. In addition, she was screened and was assisted with the medical bill, 30% of her vision was lost, and she was prescribed and given eyeglasses to help her.
Similarly, inclusive teacher training programs were provided to school teachers, encouraging them to care for children, particularly those with disabilities, and to serve as role models for their students. On the other hand, the school administration created child clubs that organize activities and awareness campaigns to encourage students to embrace human differences and respect equality.
Ikran* was overjoyed and started attending classes. She is currently in fifth grade and with hard work and dedication, she is hoping to excel academically, she is extremely happy and engages with her peers, and has had the opportunity to have her voice and needs recognized.
She is a member of her school's inclusive child club, and she and her friends organize activities and campaigns with the purpose of lowering negative attitudes toward disabled children.
Ikran*'s passion for education instilled in her a sense of optimism for a brighter future, not only for herself but also for her family.
“My name is Ikran* and I am a 13-year-old from Gardo district.
“When I was six years old, my mother became sick and later died.
“We were all sad, my mother was nice and always around and her death was heart-breaking.
“Our father is a soldier and is work far away from us to help the family and away and when mother died, he sent us to live with our grandmother.
“My grandmother owns a small shop, and we helped her around the house and with the shop.
I have always had trouble with my eyes. They used to get blurry and seeing used to become difficult. But a year later, they become worse. They pained me and I used to have headache. They were swollen and I will be fatigued by the constant pain. I could not tolerate light because my eyes will be tearing constantly.
“I and grandmother went to a doctor and they told us I had an eye condition and I have lost 30% of my vision and I will lose it completely if not treated. I was terrified knowing that I was losing my sight but grandmother could not pay my medical bills.
“Even though I was having headaches and eye pains, I wanted to go to school with my siblings. But given my situation, it was difficult to continue my education. Writing from the blackboard was difficult, and I could not see properly from a distance so each day class come to an end with me learning barely anything and not writing a thing.
“I was happy when I was given school materials and teachers were more considerate and catering towards me and my classmates were also friendly. I have a bus that picks me up from home in the morning and drops me off later in the day.
I also saw a doctor and this time we get the treatment. I was given glasses and now I can see better from the board.
At school, I am an active member of the child club and we organize activities and raise awareness about the rights of children with disabilities.
I want to complete my education and have a beautiful future.”
Hawa* (Ikran*’s grandmother):
“My name is Hawa* I am 73 years old and I am the grandmother of Ikran*.
“After the death of their mother, I have been taking care of Ikran* and her ten siblings.
“I run a small shop that sells for some daily use things at home and that is our only income which is not sufficient to cover all the basic essential needs such as health, paying school fees, books, pens, and school equipment but we have had many great days.
“Ikran* got sick when she was seven years old. We did not understand her illness at first, but she was mostly annoyed about her eyes, feeling fatigue and having headaches. Her eyes will get teary and they will become yellow.
“I took her to get her checked and they told us she had an eye condition and almost half of her vision was lost but will be completely lost if left untreated.
“We treated her but because of the family’s income and our capacity to cover her medical bills, she did not quality treatment.
“Ikran* loved going to school but because of the eye problem it became difficult for her to go and walk through the highways and rough roads only to sit and not see anything from the board and have frequent headaches in the class.
“I worried for her safety and health so I was hesitant of her going to school and spend every second she was away worried about her.
“But Ikran* received support from a program supporting the school. They helped with her medical bills and tested her and gave her quality treatment giving her glasses to help with her sight.
“They also offered her a scholarship and covered her transportation fare.
“I am relieved that she received such support and want her to have a great future.”
Background / Project information
Save the Children implements the Together For Inclusion (TOFI) project which supports children with disability in in Somalia to access quality basic education. The main purpose of the project was to increase enrolment and retention of children with disability in schools through improved and responsive access opportunities to quality and equitable basic education services in Somalia.
The project reached adults and children with disabilities, as well as DPOs, schools and learning centers, and a range of institutions related to individual social protection and economic empowerment. Beneficiaries also included government and non-government agencies.