School in Ethiopia breaks down barriers to education for Somali pastoralist children

Shaygosh school in Ethiopia providing free education to children from Somali pastoralist families/Mohamed Khalif/Ergo

(ERGO) – Abdullahi Ahmed Mohamed was one of 45 students sitting for this year’s national examinations at Shaygosh School in Korahe region of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state. 

As the son of a nomadic pastoralist family, he was burning with curiosity as a boy of eight and ran away from home in Yo’ob village near Dollow to join the school he had heard others talking about. 

“The boys used to come back home talking about a new life, new systems and things we had never heard about. They talked about what they learned and how they benefited. I thought why not visit and see what they are talking about! Abdullahi told Radio Ergo. 

Shaygosh is the only school in the state that provides free education, food and boarding accommodation for pastoralist children. Run by the state government, it has 34 teachers including five women. 

Despite the community’s conservative traditions and cultural apprehension about sending their children to school, especially the girls, Shaygosh has been seeing increasing success with its enrolment strategy over the last few years.  

The deputy principal, Ahmed Abdi Ibrahim, said the school struggled to attract students when it opened in 2007, but it now has 620 students including 76 girls. The staff has been conducting awareness campaigns to convince the elders of the benefits of sending children to school. 

“In the first year we opened, there were no girls at all in the school, and by the third year, there were just five girls. We are still struggling to get female students,” said Ahmed Abdi. 

Nimo Mohamed Ali is one of the first five girls who joined Shaygosh School at the age of eight. She said her friends already in the school pushed her to join. 

“I told my mother about this good school and I said that I wanted to join, although she still needed me at home. My mother was quickly convinced and took me to the school, where I was registered and I got my admission, Nimo recalled. 

She was among the first batch of female students to graduate in 2018. She is now studying management and administration at Qabri-dahre University.   

Ahmed Deq Dahir, a father of seven, remembers how unhappy his wife was when he took his first-born son Hadis to Shaygosh School in 2007. 

“We were not in agreement with his mother. She said her son was not going to school because he would be led astray and would lose his religion,” Ahmed said. 

I also had the same thoughts, but I told her that he would be living with his relatives and he would become whatever they were. At first, I was also worried about them deviating from their religion.” 

Hadis, now 22, has just graduated in accounting from the University of Jigjiga. The family is enormously proud of him. 

“I remind my wife of her opposing views and ask her what she makes of her son. Your son just graduated and he will soon start working and even send you some money! Now I realise the fruits of education and I think I should have sent all my children to school,” Ahmed told Radio Ergo. 

The school is running at maximum capacity and has to turn away applicants. The policy is to enrol equal numbers of students from all regions of the state. 

The school administration has lobbied the state government to be able to expand education services for more students in the rural areas. According to the deputy principal, funds are now available to extend the school by increasing the number of classes and dormitories. 


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