Taking time out from their studies, a group of young student volunteers in Somalia’s capital are providing free education to children uprooted from their homes by war and famine.
Seven years after hunger and disease killed a quarter of a million people, and in the midst of an ongoing hardliner insurgency in Somalia, so-called IDP camps dot Mogadishu. These squalid villages of makeshift huts for the homeless, called “internally displaced people” by aid workers, crowd the spaces between buildings and neighbourhoods in Mogadishu.
They are among the most destitute: landless, penniless and with little hope for their children’s future. But an initiative by some of the city’s more fortunate young folk is offering basic literacy and numeracy skills to the displaced youngsters. Most of the volunteers are students at local universities, such as Abdirashid Abdulahi, one of the group’s founders.
“After having seen, and studying, the existence of lack of government-controlled education centres for the destitute communities, we have decided, as academics, to assist our needy people at the displacement settlements in Mogadishu,” said the 20-year-old medical student. “We have nothing else to give to these people, except our time to educate them,” he said.
Abdulahi said the group’s 30 volunteers are teaching 600 pupils aged six to 15 in four centres at informal settlements around the city. “Nothing is easy here − some of our classes are held under trees or simple shelters − but we are happy because our morale, and that of the students, is high,” he said.
“All that matters is the positive objective we seek to achieve together.” Education,like many other state-provided services, has been disrupted by decades of civil war. While private schools and colleges thrive in Mogadishu, they are only an option for the well-off few.