Free school on an empty stomach - mixed blessings for Somali girl displaced by the drought

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Kaydka Sawirrada/Ergo Photo | File photo/Ergo

Radio Ergo 03 May, 2017 MUQDISHO


(ERGO) - Maryan Olad Omar, 12, is happy to have the chance to go to school now that her family is displaced from their Lower Shabelle home and staying in a camp in Mogadishu - but she goes to lessons with an empty stomach that makes it very hard to focus.

“I go into the class at seven in the morning with empty stomach and feeling dizzy because of hunger. I don’t understand much about the lesson. The earliest time I can get food is at 12 noon when I leave the school,” Maryan explained, adding:

“I am enduring hunger and hardship because I want to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor who treats poor people, so I have to study hard to make my dream come true.”  

Maryan’s family fled from Wanlaweyn district in southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region four months ago due to the drought. Their only source of income was the small farm they owned in Wanlaweyn, where they grew sorghum and beans to eat and sell.  Everything dried up and there was no food so they left for Mogadishu hoping to find aid.

Maryan is among 613 students supported for free education by the Formal Education Network of Private Schools (FENPS) since January. She is in class four at Dheman School in Kahda district of Mogadishu.

Her mother goes to the city to find jobs washing clothes, and brings home at most 100,000 Somali shillings ($4.5). Her father is unemployed and looks after the children while the mother is away. The 12 children and parents cook one meal a day to survive.

The blessings for the family seem very mixed. There are hundreds of other families displaced by the drought in Somalia who are in similar situations.

Maryan is now attending school with her three sisters and two brothers, whereas before the drought her father could only afford to pay the 40,000 shilling fees a month for Maryan. The lack of food, however, diminishes the impact of their educational experience.

Hibaq Ahmed Hashi, director of Dheman School, told Radio Ergo they provide the students with books, pens and free education but are unable to provide food.

“While the education is free of charge, the real challenge is that teaching hungry children is very hard – we just have to remind them to focus on their education and forget about food, although food is viral for their lives,” Hibaq told Radio Ergo.

This school opened in January to provide free education for the children of displaced families from Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, who live in the internally displaced people’s camps in Kahda district, south of the capital.

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