“Letters From Somalia”: Dreams of Education in a War Torn Land
By Rohini Bhaskar
|Maryam, a doctor in charge of an SOS clinic in Badbado. Photo courtesy of Jens Honore.|
Once upon a time, Somalia was one of Africa’s most prosperous and thriving commercial centers. However, because of an ineffective government, civil war, famine and disease, it has become the world’s poorest and arguably most violent country. In the face of famine and poverty, people have been fighting cholera, diarrhoea and HIV. Around 40% of Somalis need humanitarian assistance. Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia is home to 1.3 million. The SOS Children’s Village in the capital city faces extreme challenges due to the country’s highly volatile environment. Extreme violence in 2011 caused families and children from the SOS Village to be displaced from their homes and moved into neighboring safe zones. Roadblocks by various forces and militia made free movement impossible. Children couldn’t attend school, colleges were not accessible to the youth and the sick were left uncared for.But even in the face of such terror, the people of Somalia remain strong and brave, and wish for their children to become educated. They are strong-willed and determined to make sure their children lead normal lives. Children have dreams and aspirations, despite living in such unfavorable conditions.
|Students learn the alphabet in a child friendly space at the Badbado IDP camp in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy of Ms. Hilary Atkins.|
“Letters from Somalia”“Letters from Somalia” was part of a class exercise that a number of children and youth from the SOS Children’s Village Mogadishu participated in it. Below are excerpts that provide a remarkable insight into this community of resilient, extraordinary people.
In a small rented home filled with SOS children and other families, Ali, a 14-year old emerges. Ali’s mother repeats her mantra to him, “education is the key to life”. Ali’s mother and a lot of other mothers have put on a brave face to shield their children from the fears and concerns they all share. Thus Ali’s dream lives on. He dreams of becoming a doctor.
Hoping to maintain a normal routine for children, the SOS Village director Osman Shukri planned well in advance with SOS Mothers, teachers and colleagues, alternative places to conduct classes and lectures. He did not want education to be disrupted at any cost.
|A malnourished child at the SOS Emergency clinic in Badbado, Somalia. Photo courtesy of Jens Honore.|
Ali’s friend Ahmed emerges from a tiny overcrowded room and says proudly “I take 12 subjects like; chemistry, physics, math, English, Arabic, biology, geography, history, Somali and computer studies.”Fatuma, who attends college half an hour away, is happy that her education has not been disrupted. The upheaval of the past two decades has prevented many people from completing their education, especially women. This will not be the case with Fatuma who takes inspiration from her best friend in school. “We help each other as friends” says the 17 year-old who is considering her career options. Attending the Nursing School at the SOS Vocational Training Centre is on her list.
SOS Children’s Villages Affected by the Fighting
Gunfire, shelling, violence, war and disease have not been able to shake the will-power and determination of these Somalis. The hopes of children to return to their homes will soon become a reality. The SOS facilities are undergoing repair and will be able to welcome its children and Mothers back in 2013.