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Education gives nomadic girl a chance to dream of being a doctor

UNICEF Somalia/ Higgins
© UNICEF Somalia/ 2010/ Higgins
Fahima Mohamed, 12 years old, reads her science textbook during class in Erigavo, Sanaag region

By Safia Jibril Abdi & Ettie Higgins

Erigavo, Northwest Somalia, ‘Somaliland,’ 10 December 2010 - In class 2A, Fahima Mohamed sits tall amongst her schoolfriends, paying close attention in her science class in the remote windswept town of Erigavo, northwest Somalia. At twelve years old, Fahima is older than most of the children in her class, where the average age is about eight, but Fahima does not mind.

She started school for the first time two years ago, at the age of ten. Before that she lived with her nomadic family on the plains of Sanaag, where she spent most of her life tending the family’s sheep and goats.  Sanaag is a harsh terrain where the spectre of drought looms every year and its devastation in 2008 wiped out the livestock that provided the sole source of income for Fahima’s family. So Fahima, together with her three brothers and parents, packed their few belongings onto their donkey and walked 120kms to move to Erigavo’s urban area in the hope of finding another means of income. 

Though Fahima missed her nomadic life and had to adjust to urban ways, in the town she became aware that other girls of her age were going to school. In the mornings as she swept outside the family’s makeshift tent she would see them heading to class carrying their brightly coloured text books. “I pleaded with my mum to let me to go to school” says Fahima.

Her mother, who spends each day from sunrise to sunset selling vegetables in the market, was worried that if Fahima went to school there would be no-one to help her with the housework. However, she eventually relented and enrolled Fahima in afternoon classes at Daalo Primary School which UNICEF supports with teacher training, textbooks and other school materials provided with contributions from the Netherlands government and UKaid from the Department for International Development.

Fahima was delighted to be able to go to school.“Now my dream is to become a doctor,” she says. In just two years Fahima has become a confident and active member of the class, keen to answer homework questions on homework and one of the top students. Says Fahima, “I enjoy learning. I especially like the colour pictures and clear writing in my text books.”  She also jokes that the typeface in her textbooks is easier to read than her teachers hand-writing!

Even though Fahima’s life of tending livestock is over, she still has to work hard at home and rise early to light the fire, prepare breakfast, do household chores and make lunch, all before going to school. It is not an easy life for a child but the chance to get an education has given Fahima something to look forward to. Her father, who never went to school and is still out work, encourages her in her schoolwork. With the support of her family Fahima may one day fulfil her ambition to work as a doctor assisting the people of Sanaag.




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