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A Somali girl’s determination to get to school - even if it means taking her little sister too

UNICEF Somalia/2013/Delfosse
© UNICEF Somalia/2013/Delfosse
Ismahan, whose family came to this camp three years ago after drought forced them to leave their home north of Mogadishu.

Amid a sea of shy and happy faces of children heading to school on their first day back at school, there’s one face that genuinely beams with joy. It’s the face of 13-year-old Ismahan. All the children attending the Al Miskin Allawenidi school, in a camp for the displaced in Waberi District, Mogadishu, face challenges. However, Ismahan, whose family came to this  camp three years ago after drought forced them to leave their home north of Mogadishu, has particular problems.

Her parents spend all day searching for casual labour to support their six children, which means that Ismahan has to take her three-year-old sister to school. Ismahan says: “In the morning I attend Koranic school while carrying my lovely sister. I come back from Koranic school and at midday I go to this school. When my mum and dad leave in the morning, I first care for the children, prepare their food, clean our shelter and help wash the clothes. I don’t have time to play, except on Friday which is the day my mother doesn’t go out.”

Al Miskin Allawenidi, is among 83 classrooms that were  built or rehabilitated with fast-track funding by the Government of the Netherlands. As part of a massive education drive by the Somali authorities, and with support from UNICEF Somalia, a Go 2 School Initiative was launched on September 8 this year to encourage a million children and young people, especially girls, to go to school.

Ismahan is serious about attending school. “My parents encourage me to study,” she says. “Now I am in grade 2 in this school and my ambition is to complete my studies and become a teacher who can help other children. I like maths and science best. I am a very lucky girl, because I couldn’t study if the school was far away from home.”

In Somalia, where only a third of girls attend schools and most of those drop out early, her commitment speaks volumes about the hope that education offers.



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