School enrollment increasing in rural Somaliland
Education Cannot Wait and UNICEF boost education opportunities for children impacted by drought
Somaliland - Twelve-year-old Rahma Abdirashid is among more than one hundred students enrolled under the Education Cannot Wait programme at the Qoryaley primary school, in rural Togdheer.
Like most of the students supported by the programme, she remained at home to support her parents with domestic chores like cooking and fetching water from the local seasonal river.
“We are six in our home. My parent decided to send the four boys to school while me and my younger sister remained home to help them with domestic chores like cooking and fetching water from Qoryaley River,” she says.
Rahma’s tale is a typical situation of a considerable number of children in rural Somaliland who are unable to join school. Over the years, Somaliland has been grappling with low enrollment across its schools. Hundreds of thousands of children are out of school and in several locations, parents are not able to support their children’s education. In addition to poverty, living long distances from school, social norms favoring boys’ education, and a lack of teachers has stopped parents from enrolling children, particularly girls, in school.
July 2019 in Somaliland, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and UNICEF launched a multi-year programme to boost education opportunities for children and youth impacted by ongoing crisis like drought. ECW allocated a catalytic grant of US$6.7 million to support the launch of the comprehensive multi-year education response. The ECW partnership with UNICEF represented a critical investment in education that supported children to fulfill their right to education, achieve their fullest potential and build human capital.
The chairman of the school Community Education Committee (CEC), Saeed Hassan, stated that the programme commenced with training and orientation, given by him and the CEC, that resulted in a heightened mobilization and awareness campaign across his township and adjacent villages.
“At the beginning, UNICEF and its partners assembled and oriented us on the importance of ensuring children, especially girls, are enrolled at the local school. We realize that as parents and local leaders, we have an important role to play that involves informing parents and mobilizing them to enroll the children that missed school,” he explained.
Hassan’s sentiments were echoed by the schools’ Head Teacher, Jama Ahmed, who said that the programme ensured the additional enrollment was successful by constructing and rehabilitating more classrooms and supporting the introduction of afternoon shifts.
“Some classrooms were added, and others rehabilitated through the ECW programme. This allowed us to absorb the increased enrollment. Before the ECW programme started, the student population was 200 but during the programme implementation it reached 318, consisting of 160 boys and 158 girls.” he stated
Other factor that dissuaded parents from sending children to school included herding livestock. By introducing the afternoon shift, Ahmed managed to create an option for parent to choose.
“Usually, some children are obligated by the parents to look after livestock like goats and sheep and this involved taking the animals for grazing; an important task as rearing animals are their main livelihood. We introduced the afternoon session so when the children return home in the afternoon, they have an opportunity to attend school” he stated.
Another notable challenge faced by schools in rural Somaliland is poverty, which has been exacerbated by the prevailing drought that decimated most of the family’s livestock. According to Liban Ahmed, the manager at Solidarity Youth Voluntary Organization (SOYVO) a local implementing partner, the programme also contributed to achieving improved learning outcomes for school-aged children, who are affected by emergencies like drought, through provision of feeding programmes.
“Toghdeer was among the region hardest hit by the drought and most families lost the majority of their animals that they relied upon. You can imagine how hard it is for a parent to send a child to school with an empty stomach given some walk for a kilometer or two to school. Through ECW support, we introduced a nutritious feeding programme that includes sorghum porridge, dates and milk to ensure they are able to concentrate,” he explained.
Local leaders and education officials are hopeful the gains made during the first phase of the programme will be maintained. They remain optimistic that the second phase will be attained and will offer additional support. Equally, Rahma is grateful for the opportunity offered to her through ECW.
“I’m grateful for being given an opportunity to learn. Education is very important, and I like to attend school and learn more. I’m hoping I and fellow students will finalize our education, go further and help our community,” she said.