UNICEF and Japan support education for vulnerable Somali children
By Mike Pflanz
BURAO, Northwest Somalia “Somaliland”, 13 January 2011 – Faisal Ahmed turns from the blackboard and asks his class of eager teenagers what are metres squared and what are metres cubed.
In the third row from the front, Hibaq Abdirahman glances down at the maths textbook on the desk before her, then shoots her hand up to explain the difference between area and volume.
When the 14-year-old was a baby, her family returned here, to a camp for displaced people 12km from Burao in Somaliland, after four years in neighbouring Ethiopia as refugees from war in their homeland.
“When we arrived, there was nothing at this place, only trees,” Hibaq’s mother, Halima Ahmed, had said earlier that morning as her daughter gathered her books for school. “There were no schools – the first class was under a tree. I thought it would be better to live near town, because there were schools there. Now, it is very different.”
Five minutes’ walk from Hibaq’s home is Abdulqadir Koosaar Primary School, four single-storey buildings arranged around a wide playground. On land that a decade ago was empty scrub, there are now seven classrooms for 424 boys and girls aged seven to 15, taught by 12 teachers whose salaries are supported through an incentive scheme funded by UNICEF.
Textbooks and school supplies provided
In Class 6, Mr. Ahmed continued with his maths lesson. A dozen textbooks provided through UNICEF are shared among the 22 boys and girls in the classroom, without which learning would be seriously affected, the 25-year-old teacher says. “Really, it is a very, very big difference and it allows us to move quickly and to learn more,” he said. “That makes the children more eager even than before.”
In the school storeroom across the playground, shelves are lined with Maths, Arabic, Somali, Religious Studies and Social Sciences text books. Footballs are gathered in a corner, next to skipping ropes and inflatable globes. Chalk and notebooks are stacked neatly on a table.
“You must realise that the people living here are among the most vulnerable, some cannot afford even a pencil or a notebook for their children at school,” said Ali Abdullahi Ibrahim, headmaster at Koosaar since 2002.
Most of these essential school supplies in the store room are supplied with funding fromthe Government of Japan, as part of its support since 2009 to UNICEF’s efforts to improve the provision of social services for vulnerable and displaced communities in Somalia, including access to basic education.
More than 400,000 school-age children and over 10,000 teachers across Somalia have benefited from learning and teaching materials, thanks to Japan’s contributions.
"Schools in Somalia lack even the most basic teaching and learning supplies such as exercise books, chalks, and recreational items that help teachers to provide child-centered education in primary schools." says Mette Nordstrand, Chief of Education in UNICEF Somalia.
"But recently, thanks to generous contributions from donors, UNICEF has been able to provide such essential supplies to about 70 per cent of school children in the country. As a result, the quality of education has improved and more children, girls in particular, were able to go to school because of the reduced cost of education".
As the Maths lesson came to a close and the bell rang for lunch, Hibaq said: “Now I can see that I can learn more, I want to go to university, and my choice is to be a doctor to help people in my community.”