(ERGO) – A new school has opened serving two remote villages north of Guriel in central Somalia’s Galgadud region, aiming to provide free education that suits the pastoralist lifestyle, and to foster peace in an area with a history of clan conflict.
About 300 children from Bali’ad and Bali-howd villages, 70 km north of Guriel, have enrolled in Bahru Nur school, which opened earlier this month.
Many children in the area were denied access to education, as their families are solely dependent on livestock, and could not afford to send them to the nearest schools in Guriel.
Bahru Nur school is supported by a local organisation of the same name.
Hassan Abdi Dhimbil, the deputy chairman of Bahru Nur, told Radio Ergo that ignorance is one of the major causes behind the young generation in the region getting involved in internal conflicts, fighting and clan disputes. He believes education will change the future.
A peace deal between two clans in this area was agreed just two months ago after a long-standing conflict. The Bahru Nur school, with children from both sides enrolled, comes as an opportunity to build on the peace deal.
“The schools are intended to educate people, whether young or older, who have been taken advantage of and dragged into clan wars due to their ignorance, in terms of education. It is through education that these people can realise the dangers of clan wars and stop fighting for their clan and focus on education,” Hassan said.
Bahru Nur school also accommodates the specific needs of pastoralist families to have their children involved in looking after the livestock. Lessons are held only in the mornings, so that the children are free to help their family in the afternoons.
Hussein Shire, in Bali’ad, has been paying fees for two years for a son and a daughter to go to Almamun School in Guriel. He raises their fees of $35 by selling one of his 110 goats every month.
He told Radio Ergo he has now enrolled his younger son in the new school in the village. It would have been financially very challenging, if at all possible, to have sent him to Guriel as well.
“It has been stressing us that I have to pay the children’s fees by selling the goats because the goats will all be finished if I sell them one by one to pay fees! But I feel like education is more important than my wealth,” said Hussein.
The Head of Bali’ad Village, Liban Ahmed Dhore, said the two villages in the district have a population of around 1,000 families.
There are five classrooms and five teachers, teaching Somali language, Arabic, mathematics and Islamic studies.
Willo Abi Farah, who lives in Bali-howd, has enrolled her son, 10, and daughter,13, in the school for the first time. They had only studied the Koran before.
“I’m happy about this new school. Education is important to the society,” Willo said.
“We used to have to send the children to a town far away, where you didn’t know about their health, their performance, or the quality of their education, it was terrible, but now things are different as we have a school here at home.”
Bahru Nur is a volunteer-based organisation and raises money to support the schools locally and from the diaspora. Well-wishers can donate as little as 1,000 shillings to help put a child through school.
Bahru Nur has set up similar schools in Aano, Godwil, Marodile, Lanle, Qodqod, Dabare and Madah Libah, all villages in Galgadud. It is still campaigning to persuade more pastoralist parents to enroll their children in school.