Somalia, 3 October 2013: Go-2-School campaign aims to put one million children in the classroom
By Susannah Price
A nationwide effort to get children into school was recently launched in Somalia with UNICEF support.
MOGADISHU, Somalia, 3 October 2013 – There was a rare atmosphere of excitement and celebration at the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu for the September launch of the Go-2-School campaign, which aims to send 1 million children and youth to school.
At the back of the hall, 10-year-old Ramla sat with other children from her school. She was inflating a huge white balloon with Adaa dugsiyada scrawled on it (meaning ‘go to school’ in Somali).
“I came here to take part, because education is everything,” Ramla said. “I want to learn, and then I can grow up and teach children and help my country.”
She then filed to the front with her classmates, each wearing a t-shirt with a single large letter on it, so that when they stood in line they spelled out the Go-2-School slogan. Before an assembled audience of education officials, teachers, United Nations representatives, civil society members and journalists, they sang songs about the importance of education.
Low enrolment, high dropout rates
Children who go to school are a minority in Somalia, where six out of 10 children are not in school – one of the worst enrolment rates in the world. Dropout rates are high, and few pupils move on to secondary education.
“We are preparing tomorrow’s leaders, engineers, teachers and politicians,” said President Mohamud, who was an educator and co-founder of a university in Mogadishu, SIMAD.
The Go-2-School campaign covers primary school children and young people up to 18 in all regions, and was launched simultaneously in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, and Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland in the north. The date was set to coincide with International Literacy Day and the first day of school in Somalia’s South Central zone.
The initiative, which will continue for three years, is led by the education authorities with support from UNICEF, WFP, UNESCO and ILO. The Minister for Human Development and Public Services, Dr. Maryan Qasim, told the audience that she came up with the idea after realizing that meaningful change could only come through improving education.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pointed out that most of his education had taken place in Somalia, but that over the past 20 years parents had not been able to guide and educate their children properly.
UNICEF Somalia Representative Sikander Khan said the campaign required investment in the future of the country and that the work had just begun.
”My plea to the older generation is let’s get the children back into the classroom – there is no reason for them to be out on the streets,” he said.
In Hargeisa, a procession of schoolchildren, parents, education officials and UN staff made their way from the Ministry of Education to the Civic Centre, led by the police brass band. The initiative was then officially launched by Somaliland’s State Minister for Education, Ahmed Nur Fahuye
In Garowe, Go-2-School was launched with fanfare in the regional parliamentary hall. The Speaker of the Puntland Assembly, Abdirashid Mohamed Hirsi, said education remained a priority and they would work to achieve the objectives of the campaign, which targets 150,000 children in Puntland.
“I urge all parents to take advantage of this opportunity that the government and its partners have created, so that the current generation can have a better future than the one we have gone through,” he said.
Puntland’s Deputy Minister of Education, Jama Yasin Jama, urged everybody to rally behind the Go-2-School initiative to lay a firm foundation for the education system and allow current progress to accelerate.
“The Ministry has made tremendous progress in the last five years with the support of our partners, and we need to sustain the fight against illiteracy,” Mr. Jama said. “The Go-2-School initiative provides us the roadmap for the future of our children and the education system as a whole.”
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