Saido, 17, Bacaado
As told to Mike Pflanz
BACAADO, Northwest Somalia “Somaliland”, 29 March 2011 – “My name is Saido Ismael Ahmed, and I live in Bacaado [pronounced Ba'ado], a rural area which is a long walk from Hargeisa [main city in Somaliland]. I am 17 years old, I am one of nine children in my family, five of my brothers and sisters are older than me and three are younger. My mother cares for us because my father had a stroke recently and is now not capable.
My family has always been nomadic herders. We keep cows and sheep and goats – they are the only way we can earn money, from milk or, rarely, meat – and we walk with them to find water and pasture when the drought comes. My duty, like all my siblings, is to care for these animals.
But I am also going to school. I am the first in my family to go to school. I wake up at 6 in the morning and my older sister Nura has been awake for an hour and has already made breakfast for us all. Then I walk to school, usually with my cousin Saidi, who is my best friend. It takes us about half-an-hour, unless it’s raining, then we get wet and it takes longer.
Walking to school, and coming home again, are my favourite times of day. I can talk and joke with Saidi. But also the schoolwork I enjoy. Our school is for 30 children, the teaching happens just under a tree, but it is ok for us pastoralist children to go with the animals for some weeks, and then return. At least I am learning more than if there was no school.
When I come home, I eat lunch and then I go to take over from my younger brother looking after the animals. It is my responsibility and it is hard work. The cows are ok, but the goats and the sheep run so fast, I find it difficult to keep up with them. There are wild animals here, like hyenas, and I have to protect my livestock. I am not afraid of the wild animals, just of the punishment from my mother if I lose an animal.
In the evening, I help to cook dinner, which is usually rice and loxlox [Somali bread]. The water for cooking has to be fetched from very far away, more than four hours walk. We take the camels to carry the water back so we only have to go every two days. Even the firewood is hard to find here, there are few trees and everything is affected by drought.
After dinner, there is homework to do. I have never seen a television, but I like to listen to the radio to hear news about the world and my country. My sisters say that I am the one always telling jokes and stories, about school, about what happened when I was caring for the animals, some news from the neighbours. The best times I enjoy are wedding celebrations when we all gather and dance and sing and can celebrate.
I am happy with my life here, but I want to leave this place to get a good job and earn more money. My family sacrifices things for me so I can go to school, and I feel a responsibility to help them.