By Denise Shepherd-Johnson
|© UNICEF Somalia/2005/Mulala|
|Children attend lessons in a temporary primary school supported by UNICEF in Hafun, Somalia.|
HAFUN, Somalia, 22 March 2005 - Before the tsunami of 26 December 2004, Hafun was a thriving fishing village off the coast of north-eastern Somalia, with a population of 5,000 and a quiet existence in an otherwise conflict-ridden country.
There was one tiny classroom to serve the village’s 460 children aged 6 - 13. Only 50 of those children attended school and just 15 of those were girls.
The tsunami brought devastation, but it also brought much attention to Hafun. The event served to remind the world of a neglected Somalia that has been without even the most basic educational infrastructure for the last 14 years. This neglect has denied Somalia’s children their right to an education.
That is why, in addition to collaborating with local authorities and UN agencies to provide emergency shelter, water and sanitation, health services and relief supplies, UNICEF has also made education a priority. The goal is to revitalize Hafun’s existing educational school and develop plans for expansion.
School enrolment increases sevenfold over pre-tsunami levels
During the first three weeks after the disaster, UNICEF education project officers from the organization's office in Bossaso (16 hours away) helped orient teachers on how to deal with the disaster. They supported the establishment of temporary classrooms; distributed teaching, learning and recreational materials; and conducted a house-to-house survey to find out how many primary school age children lived in the village. A community awareness and mobilization campaign also led to the formation of a Community Education Committee.
This activity generated great interest in the community. Primary school enrolment soared from a previous total of 50 pupils to a new high of 340 – a sevenfold increase, representing 74 per cent of all primary school age children in Hafun.
|© UNICEF Somalia/2005/Mulala|
|A young girl at a temporary primary school. UNICEF is supporting a project to build a new permanent school in Hafun.|
Due to constraints of limited space and few teachers, only 180 children (80 of them girls) have been accommodated at the local school, but a solution is on its way. UNICEF is supporting local administration plans to build a new school on land donated by an enthused and energized Hafun community. The school will also double as a community learning centre.
With four classrooms, a playground, an office, a storeroom and a community hall, the new school will comfortably accommodate the additional children who sought enrolment. There will be room enough for other children who have not yet enrolled. Already children as young as three are pleading for their chance to go to school.
Rising to the challenge
When completed in about three months time, the primary school will operate on two shifts, morning and afternoon, and will provide non-formal education classes for young people aged 14 and over. UNICEF will provide ongoing support, in the form of water and sanitation facilities, hygiene education, and education on HIV/AIDS prevention.
Teacher training is a key component of this project: An additional eight teachers will be hired and will receive in-service training to serve the expanded school population.
Providing education for the children of Hafun is proving to be truly a community-centred project. The Mayor of Hafun and the Community Education Committee are actively involved in daily planning and activities designed to make the soon-to-be-built school a joyful learning environment and a unique gathering place for the Hafun community.
Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991. The last 14 years have been extremely difficult, but when faced with a disaster, the people of Hafun rose to the challenge, with the partnership of the international community.
Jesper Morch UNICEF Representative in Somalia discusses how the money donated to UNICEF is being spent to help children.
More stories from Somalia