Somalia Launches Campaign to Get One Million Children into School

Challiss McDonough, World Food Programme

Education is an important pillar for building a peaceful society — and Somalia's formal education system has completely collapsed after two decades of civil war. The Somali authorities, with the help of international aid agencies, are taking appropriate measures to educate its citizens in a broader effort to stabilize the country.

Somalia has launched a wide ranging campaign to get one million more children and youth into school as part of an ambitious Go 2 School Initiative, UNICEF said in a statementThe Go 2 School Initiative, which will cost US$117 million over three years, is being supported by UNICEF, WFP and UNESCO along with a number of International NGOs.

The campaign, which will run for three years, aims to give a quarter of the young people currently out of the education system a chance to learn.

According to UNICEF, enrollment rates in Somalia are among the lowest in the world. Only 4 out of every 10 children are in school, many children start primary school much later than the recommended school-entry age of six and many more drop out early. Secondary school education enrollments are even weaker.

Girls are particularly affected. Only a third of girls are enrolled in school in South Central Somalia and many drop out before completing their primary education.

The drive to get parents to bring their children to free Government schools will be boosted by plans to build and renovate schools, train and support teachers, increase the capacity of Ministries and provide youth training facilities.

The Go 2 School Initiative includes basic education for 6–13 year olds as well as alternative basic education for out of school children including pastoralists and the internally displaced.

"Go 2 School is very ambitious, but it is an essential and achievable initiative," said UNICEF Somalia Representative, Sikander Khan. "Education is the key to the future of Somalia – we have already lost at least two generations. An educated youth is one of the best contributions to maintaining peace and security in Somalia. I know the Somali parents recognise this – and I believe that the international community does as well."

In June, the first education conference was held in Mogadishu. During the conference, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon promised that the government would give education the same priority as defence and security.

Ahmed Nur Fahuye, the State Minister for Education in Somaliland, expressed his full support for the Initiative. "We are all now required to teach or to learn," he said.

The Minister of Education for Puntland Abdi Farah Said Juxa said, "Our children must come first. We all need to come together and help educate our children. Everyone must play their part, government, parents, teachers and the community at large. Education is our future. The efforts we put in today will be rewarded tomorrow."

[Photo: Challiss McDonough, World Food Programme]

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