Putting education first in Somalia

Sumayo Jama Farah, 12, is one of many inspiring students who participated in a project in the Puntland State of Somalia to provide displaced children with quality primary education.

Sumayo is enrolled in class five at Jeexdin School in Galkacyo, one of the schools participating in an education programme run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The programme helps to build schools, trains teachers and community education committees, and provides teaching and learning materials for students.

The project was implemented in three schools: Jeexdin IDP Primary School in Galkacyo, Jillab IDP School in Garowe, and Girible IDP School in Bossaso. Through these concerted efforts, 1,000 students are benefiting from the education programme.

Education takes a back seat

In Somalia, violence and widespread displacement have upended the lives of countless Somalis and disrupted children’s education. A total of 4.8 million children are out of school across Somalia, while 3.5 million require emergency child protection services, according to a March 2023 report by UNICEF.

Families have been uprooted from their homes and struggle to afford school fees due to a lack of stable income. Education often takes a back seat as families prioritise paying for food for their children.

A group of students participating in the education advocacy session at Jeexdin School, Galkacyo. Photo: Hani Mohamed/NRC

Students identify barriers to education

Twenty students from Jeexdin School, 10 girls, and 10 boys, participated in an advocacy session, on the importance of early childhood education and preparing them to become future leaders. The interactive session delved into discussions about youth activism and active citizenship, addressing a crucial question: "What are the obstacles preventing children in our community from accessing education?".

Through engaging activities and dialogue, the young learners identified various barriers hindering school attendance.

According to the students, financial constraints are a significant challenge, as many families struggle to afford the costs associated with education. There is also a lack of awareness about the importance of education and its long-term benefits.

The students explained that limited educational facilities within the community make it difficult for children to access quality education close to their homes. The session highlighted the unique challenges faced by students with disabilities, who often encounter additional barriers that prevent them from attending school.

Sumayo Jama, presenting a group discussion during the session. Photo: Hani Mohamed/NRC

Sumayo aspires to become a teacher

Sumayo has 12 siblings. Her mother is the breadwinner and runs a small business in the market. Sumayo talked about how the education programme has provided her and her siblings with the invaluable opportunity to attend school every day.

“We are not worried about school fees or learning materials. We have everything in our school. We have just received scholastic materials to support our learning journey,” says Sumayo.

Sumayo aspires to become a teacher in the future, driven by her passion to teach and empower displaced children in her community.

“I hope that becoming a teacher will not only give me the chance to teach displaced children but also allow me to earn enough to support my family and repay my mother's unwavering support and dedication as she has been the sole provider for our family,” says Sumayo.

Despite the positive impact of the education programme, Sumayo, her siblings, and other children have an underlying fear of losing this opportunity, since it is entirely dependent on continued funding. With sustained support from donors, NRC hopes to continue the programme so that students like Sumayo can fulfil their dreams.

Sign up to our newsletter to read more stories from around the world.