(ERGO) – Thousands of Somali children have been out of school for the last few weeks and risk missing their exams due to heavy flooding in the southern district of Beletweyne, in the river Shabelle valley.
A total of 27,471 students from 87 schools in Beletweyne have been affected, according to the local authorities.
In addition, 766 teachers are unable to get to work or get paid as schools are closed and they themselves are among the affected families.
Osman Mohamud Elmi, the head of education in Hiran region, told Radio Ergo that children’s lives were disrupted as they were about to sit for the national examinations.
“The families have fled to wherever they believe to be safe. The situation is not calm,” Osman said. “Students can only learn in peace.”
Osman Sanay Muhumed, a fourth-year student at Sigma high school, said he had lost all his books.
“In our house, my books were placed up on a high shelf but were still soaked in the floods. We shifted to a second house and still the floods reached us there. We all came together in a third place, but yet again the floodwaters found us,” Osman told Radio Ergo.
Osman is one of six children, whose father ran a shop in Hawotako village in Beletweyne. The shop was submerged and the family moved to El-Jalle, where thousands of displaced families have sought refuge on higher ground. Luckily, Osman’s father managed to rescue his goods from the shop before they fled, but so far he has lost two weeks of business and the family’s income is currently zero.
Ahmad Daqane Ali, the principal of Sheikh Moxamed Macalim school, with 1,050 students including 392 girls, said the school buildings in Hawotako were severely damaged.
“Water has filled the school, it went everywhere! All the classrooms, outside the classrooms, even the toilets are all filled with water. Everything will need renovation,” said Ahmad.
The 35 teachers have not been paid their salaries as the school depends on student fees to pay staff.
Jama’ Suley is a biology teacher at Mujamac school, usually earning $200 per month. He and his family of nine were also victims of the floods in Koshin village and had to move to an IDP camp. He has not been paid and is struggling for cash.
Most school administrations want to reopen as soon as possible and arrange catch-up classes for students to sit national exams.
However, students would like the exams to be postponed so that they have time to settle. Shukri Ali was at Mujama’ secondary and is now displaced with her family.
“We would be happier for exams to be postponed because other students would be ahead of us and would do far better. We have to get back to the city, and clean up the houses. This will take time,” she said.
Ibado Elmi, a parent with three children in grade 12 and three in Koranic school, is trying to cope and keep the family safe in a miserable IDP camp. She says the children cannot possibly sit exams in this situation.
“They have nowhere to study. No one is going out anywhere – we are all here in one place. Only the father goes to the town, the rest are all here,” Ibado told Radio Ergo.
“I keep them in the house. If I let them go out freely they might drown in the water. They are in the house – I only set them free to go to the toilet!”
Examinations were postponed in Beletweyne in 2017 and 2018 due to floods in this area.