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Somalia, 15 April 2016: Never too old to learn – a grandmother’s story

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Sheikh
Grandmother Faduma enjoys her first days in the classroom at Dolow Primary school Somalia.

April 2016 – In a crowded Grade One classroom in southern Somalia one particular student stands out among the small chattering children who is particularly keen to learn.

“This is my first time sitting in a classroom,” says Faduma Dhaqane with a smile. She is a 41 year old grandmother who has seen plenty of hardship and tragedy before finally starting school. Thanks to support from UNICEF and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Faduma now has her first chance at getting an education.

As a child, Faduma worked on her family’s farm in a small village in Bardera District in southern Somalia, harvesting crops and caring for livestock. The workload was heavy and Faduma was not able to go to school.

“The farming was difficult, but I was the eldest child in my family so I had to support the others,” she said.

At 15, Faduma’s parents arranged for her to be married. Her husband, Abdi, lived a nomadic lifestyle and after their marriage Faduma moved with him in search of water and grazing areas for their livestock. They had four children and a growing herd. But in 2011, a drought led to a famine which killed over 250,000 people including members of Faduma’s family.

“I lost my husband and two of my children,” she says quietly. “It was very painful.”

Faduma fled with her two surviving children to a series of camps for internally displaced people along the Ethiopian border. Last year, the family moved to Kabasa camp in Dolow. Near their new home was a UNICEF-supported school, the Dolow Primary School. Faduma visited the school in hopes of enroling her six year old grandson, Ahmed. When she met the school’s headmaster, Dhaqan Siyad, he encouraged Faduma to enroll as well.

“The staff motivated me to enroll in Dolow Primary School as a Grade One student,” Faduma said. “I was overjoyed because I saw my dream to be a student coming true.”

Access to education in Somalia is hampered by lack of learning facilities, materials and teachers. The Federal Government’s Go-2-School programme which aims to bring one million children back to school, has provided renewed momentum to improve education opportunities. While there is greater government capacity and an increase in resources for the education sector, communities remain the backbone of the education system. Communities build and maintain schools, provide school meals and pay small incentives to teachers.

With funding from DFID, UNICEF supports one hundred schools in Gedo region, including Dolow Primary School. In addition to providing learning materials, UNICEF is working with Community Education Committees and Child-to-Child Clubs to strengthen the participation of parents, teachers, community leaders and children in building active and resilient school communities. Communities have come together to build extra classrooms, plant trees, improve the learning environment and conduct enrolment campaigns to bring back children – and adults like Faduma – to school.

Faduma sits in the classroom with her favourite classmate – her small grandson Ahmed.

“I am very excited and I’m learning to read and count,” she said. “I hope to continue my learning until I complete secondary school. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this chance.”

 

 
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