Transforming lives

Displaced children find hope in the classroom

UNICEF Somalia
16 October 2019

Baidoa, Somalia – Two years ago, 12-year-old Nurta, like many pastoralist children in Somalia, didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. She spent her days helping her mother look after her younger siblings and tending to their animals.

“Each day would be the same. I would help my mother around our home and sometimes go with my brothers to look after our goats,” Nurta says. “When the drought worsened, we started to lose our animals and my father decided the time had come to come to Baidoa.”

The devastating drought that hit Somalia in 2017 forced many pastoralist families to move further afield in search of food and water. Nurta, along with her parents and 8 siblings, embarked on a journey many in their community has already made, travelling to Baidoa, where the family settled in a camp for displaced people.

At first life in the camp was similar to their life at home, Nurta spending her time helping her mother look after her younger siblings, but three months after the family arrived, Nurta heard that a school was being set up for children living in their camp.

UNICEF, with the support of USAID, was setting up an Alternative Basic Education (ABE) centre, providing displaced children with the chance to access education, many of them for the first time. As soon as the centre opened, the two classrooms were packed with children eager to learn.

“Families were very keen for their children to start attending the centre,” said Abduladhif Sheikh, UNICEF Education Officer. “The community understand that education is vital for their children, and you can see this in how many children, especially girls, are attending every day, and through the enthusiasm of the students.”

The centre now provides education opportunities for more than 130 children, with girls making up more than a third of students. The children, who range in age from 6-to-14 years old, study lessons including Somali, English, Arabic, Mathmatics, Science, Social studies and Islamic studies.

The Alternative Basic Education (ABE) programme supported by USAID is a unique approach designed to reach children like Nurta, offering a second chance for children who missed out on enrolling in formal primary education.

The programme is tailored to the specific needs of displaced or pastoralist children, a flexible approach with interventions including temporary learning spaces, accelerated curriculum, flexible timetables, interactive radio instruction and appropriate and relevant reading materials, education kits, teacher resources, and other materials to help provide quality, relevant, and flexible educational opportunities. 

Nurta still remembers her first day at school. “I was nervous as I had never stepped inside a classroom before, but the teachers helped us overcome our fear,” she says.

“I never thought I would have the chance to learn in a classroom. Now I am here I want to make sure I finish school and then learn to be a midwife – to help mothers and babies in my community.” -Nurta Abdulahi Dahir, 12

Now Nurta loves coming to lessons, with English her favourite. She hopes to be a midwife when she grows up, so she can help mothers and babies in the camp and has even made sure that her siblings joined her in coming to the centre.

Across Somalia, USAID has supported UNICEF in providing ABE services to more than 20,000 pastoralist children like Nurta, including more than 11,000 boys and almost 9,000 girls, providing them with the tools to build a brighter future.