Girls flock to free primary school set up by women teachers
By Gopinath Durairajan
Baidoa Region, Somalia, September 2013 - A school specifically for girls and run by women is transforming lives in Baidoa – an area that has been ravaged by fighting and drought.
The Baidoa Primary Girls School was established by three women teachers in 2005. They were part of a six member Professional Female Teachers Association (PFTA) set up to reinvigorate education in the area. The PFTA looked at the main obstacles to girls receiving an education and found that access to the existing schools was limited due to insecurity, prohibitive cost and lack of facilities for girls.
The free all-girls school was called Abdullah Derow School, after a slain politician. It was an instant hit among the community - teachers had to teach students in double shifts due to the high number of students and lack of adequate infrastructure. UNICEF supported the rehabilitation of the school in 2006 and provided more classrooms, furniture, toilets and water facilities.
Halima Mohamed Abdi, one of the founding teachers, says that their driving force was the deep desire of the people to seek affordable education for girls.
"Somalis believe in education but since they cannot afford it, they don't send children to schools. Additionally, girls have more cultural and social barriers,” says Halima.
The school has faced various challenges with students dropping out due to displacement and insecurity. However conditions are more stable now, and there are 963 girls in class.
The school has provided a sanctuary and a semblance of normalcy during turbulent times. Grade 3 student, Farhia Mukhtar Adan, aged 12 says: “I feel happy and confident to be a student in this school.”
Hamdi Adan Ahmed who was a student in the school from Grade I to Grade VIII says that the most the girls really appreciate the fact that they can talk to their female teachers in confidence and the girls can play games freely.
The all-women management of the school is now expanding its work among community and will be supporting the Government in its current drive to ensure that all children are vaccinated against polio following an outbreak of the disease in Somalia.