Five new schools opened by the Jubbaland state authorities in villages around the southern Somali town of Kismayo have enabled hundreds of children to begin education for the first time in their lives.
Shukri Ibrahim enrolled six of her nine children, including four girls, in Instabul school, 25 kilometres from Kismayo, that opened on 6 October.
None of the children, not even her eldest aged 17, had ever been to school. They were among 1,570 other children who joined the new school in the village.
“I was feeling very happy, I took all my children to the school. The teachers welcomed me with open arms, I am not moving them anywhere until they learn,” she said triumphantly.
Shukri was unable to afford the school uniform for her children but they were allowed to attend their classes anyway. Even though tuition is free, it cost her a lot of effort raising money for the extras.
“We were also told to buy books, so I went to market and sold some of our food at home. I sold a carton of pasta; it was worth $10 but I got $7.
I bought my eldest two daughters six books, the third born got five books, and the rest got four books each.
I also got them pencils and sharpeners. I couldn’t afford to buy them school bags because we don’t have the money,” she said.
The family used to live as pastoralists in Sakow, Middle Juba, but drought wiped out all their 15 cows and 50 goats between October and November last year.
Shukri then moved with the children to El-Jalle 2 IDP camp last December, leaving her husband working as a farm labourer in Bu’ale, sending them money whenever he can.
“When he gets a job he sends us money and when doesn’t, he informs us. He sends us $1.5-2 if he makes that one day.
We don’t get vegetables not even tomatoes or potatoes,” said Shukri. As she is seven months pregnant, she is unable to work to support the family.
Meanwhile, in Wirkoy, a village 45 kilometres from Kismayo, Abdikadir Omar Mohamed’s five nieces and nephews are among the 170 students now enrolled at the new primary and middle school that has opened.
Abdikadir, 29, is unmarried and has been taking care of his late brother’s children since 2019. He earns a meagre $2-4 as a farm labourer.
“I was growing worried about their education. Now I am not worried, thank God, I am happy today! There was no school but now we have got a school. They leave at 10:00 in the morning and return at four in the afternoon,” said Abdikadir.
He bought books for the children although he could not afford to buy school uniform.
“I go out one day and work on two or three farm fields and buy the children food. I go out the next day and get books for one of the children, that’s how I bought them books,” he explained.
The schools were constructed by Jubbaland state education ministry with the support of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Other villages Baarka, Singalayr, and Luglow.
According to Salah Qalaf Hassan, the chairman of education affairs in Lower Juba, the ministry also expanded schools in Qaam-Qaam, Yontoy, and Bula-gadud villages from four to seven classrooms each, enabling 750 new students to be enrolled. The ministry has employed 51 teachers each on a salary of $100 a month to staff the schools.