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Somalia, 2 December 2014: Government’s Go 2 School campaign brings children to class for the first time

By Athanas Makundi

2 December 2014, MOGADISHU, Somalia – Ten-year-old Dahabo Abdulkadir Abdi, like many of her friends living in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, always dreamed of going to school but never had the chance until last year.

Then in September 2013 the Somali Government, supported by UNICEF, launched its ambitious Go to School Initiative providing free education for the first time in more than 20 years. Dahabo is one of nearly 40,000 new pupils who have enrolled in South and Centre Somalia in the past year.

 UNICEF Somalia/2014/Makundi
© UNICEF Somalia/2014/Makundi
Ten-year-old, Dahabo Abdulkadir Abdi and her classmates laugh at a joke in Grade 1 at Bodhera Primary School in Mogadishu Somalia.

“I always wanted to go to school,” says Dahabo, who is now in Grade 1 at Bondhera Primary School. “When my mother found out about the free education she brought me here.”

Dahabo’s father was killed in fighting two years ago and her mother Khadija Osman Mohamed, struggles with odd jobs every day to bring up her three children.

“You know how life can be when the father of the children dies?” asks Khadija softly. “It’s difficult, I could not afford to send my daughter to private school, but I thank God now that education is free.”

Dahabo is still fired up, one year after she started going to school and wants to be a teacher when she finishes. Every morning, she gets up before at dawn to help with domestic work before joining a growing number of Somali children who make their way to the classrooms.

“I thought that in school they teach only the Holy Koran,” says Dahabo who confidently leads the class in reciting their vowels. “ But here, I am learning many subjects like Science, Arabic, Somali, English, Maths, and Social Studies.”

The school has received support through distribution of textbooks, desks, pens and other educational materials. The head teacher Nurto Adow says, the number of pupils is expanding rapidly.

“We started with 120 girls, mostly orphans and those from poor backgrounds, later on the enrollment went up to 500 girls,” says Nurto Adow proudly.

“This is a much-needed programme and its provisions have to be increased to cater for more students who are still waiting on the list to be enrolled because the classroom space is not enough,” she explains.

Only four out of ten Somali children go to school – and the numbers are even lower for girls. Despite its success, more work needs to be done to increase enrolment in the northern regions of Puntland and Somaliland and help marginalized, out of school children including pastoralists and the internally displaced. 

 UNICEF Somalia/2014/Makundi
© UNICEF Somalia/2014/Makundi
Pupils at a general assembly at Bodhera Primary School in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Parents, teachers and the authorities all agree that all Somali children have the right to education and it holds the key to Somalia’s future.

Mr. Mohamed Abdukadir Nur, the Director General at the Education Ministry in Mogadishu, says sending children to school is the only effective way to transform the country and move from crisis to sustainable development.

“There are many good things that we have achieved through the Go 2 School Initiative in the first year alone,” says Mr Nur. “I don’t think we can solve the security of this country by bringing soldiers or more weapons. In the long term, we can win this war by educating our children.”

The Go 2 School programme is supported by UNICEF and generously funded by various donors including the European Union, USAID, the United Kingdom Department for International Development DFID, the Danish International Development Agency DANIDA and the Global Partnership for Education.

The initiative was launched with the aim of getting a million children and young people into school in three years. The programme includes building and renovating schools and classrooms, providing incentive payments and training for teachers and working with the Ministries.

“This programme came at the right time, says the Director General, Mr Nur. “Somali children deserve the best support in order reach their full potential like the rest of children in the world.“ 



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