(ERGO) – Sixteen-year-old Shukri Hashi Abdi’s mornings at home in Guriel, central Somalia, begin at the crack of dawn, making sure that her five brothers and two younger sisters are all fed and the house is clean.
“After I finish cooking pancakes and soup, and preparing tea, I wash the utensils and then clean the compound,” Shukri told Radio Ergo in an interview at her home.
“The earliest I can leave home is 7:30 am,” she said. “That is the time the school gate is closed!”
Shukri’s school is two kilometres away from the house and although she rushes thereafter her domestic chores are done, she invariably arrives late when classes have already begun.
The teacher punishes her for arriving late and she is made to stand at the front of the class.
There are many girls in this part of Somalia, who are unable to balance the burden of required household chores with their education. The schools are largely part of the problem, imposing punishment instead of being understanding.
Shukri, a class eight student, loves her studies and really wants to stay at school. However, it is almost impossible for her to speak about her challenges at school.
“The administration will not forgive me if I say I was doing housework because there are many students who come late and each has some excuse,” Shukri said.
“If one person is excused, all the others try to follow, even those girls who do nothing at home.”
Many schools go as far in their punishment for being late as suspending the students.
Juweriya Khalif, a form one student, was suspended by Omar-bin-Abdiaziz School in February for repeatedly arriving late. She told Radio Ergo that it was because of the chores she had to do at home.
Juweriya’s parents met the school administration and agreed to reduce her workload at home to allow her to get to class on time. Based on that promise, the school has taken her back.
“It is difficult to manage both [school and housework] but whoever aims to succeed in her education should think of doing the work and getting prepared for the exams,” declared a stoic Juweriya, who knows she is still stuck with domestic duties.
“Girls usually do their school work when in the kitchen. They read books while cooking food,” she added.
The principal of Mustaqbal Primary and Secondary School in Guriel, Omar Ali Hashi, told Radio Ergo that the number of girls dropping out of school was far more than boys. This in his 15-year experience is purely because of the way that girls are treated at home.
“The challenge facing girls is demonstrated for instance during the exam time when boys are allowed to read their books, but girls, whether it is exam time or not, still have to do the housework,” Omar said.
He said that the majority of girls in the area do not go beyond class eight. He called on parents to step up in support of their daughters.
“Parents are supposed to remove any obstacles barring the child from being at school. They should advise and support the children to continue their education,” he urged.
Some parents do not even realise that their daughters will be punished by the school for arriving late until they are sent home on suspension.
Hawo Mohamed Farah, a mother of two girls and three boys, urged parents to give their daughters an equal chance to study.
“I like my daughter to go to school. Whatever should have been done by my daughter, I am ready to do it myself. I am the one who cooks lunch and supper,” she said.