(ERGO) – Girls and boys from farming families whose income has been slashed by the recent river floods in southern Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region are being supported to get back to school after dropping out due to poverty.
Ten schools in Jowhar, Balad, Adale and Warsheikh districts are offering almost 2,000 children free places with meals, under a programme co-sponsored by the Hirshabelle ministry of education and Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global fund supporting education in lower income countries.
Faduma Muse Abdullahi, 17, is happy to be back in class four at Moyko primary school in Moyko village, two kilometres east of Jowhar. She had been helping her mother collecting grass to sell, earning around one dollar to contribute towards the family’s sole income. Their father has no work since their farm failed in the floods.
“I have turned my attention now to my education,” Faduma told Radio Ergo. She is currently helping her mother cutting grass in the evenings.
Faduma is entitled to free breakfast and lunch at the school. As the only child in her family enrolled in school, she says she is determined not to get married but instead to continue her studies to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher.
Since the floods, many students have had their schooling curtailed because their families can no longer pay the fees at private schools after losing their harvests.
Under the new programme, Idris Abdulle, a resident of Moyko village, now has a son in class three and a daughter in class four. He said the initiative has encouraged parents in his village to enroll their children. Although the school needs some renovation, he mentioned that it has two toilets for girls and two for boys.
Gafay school, seven km east of Jowhar in Gafay village, has enrolled 106 students, including 52 girls. The headmaster, Sidow Haji Yarow, said the free meals has been a big incentive for full attendance.
“Some of the students who dropped out have come back after we started the feeding programme. We feed them dates and porridge for breakfast, while for lunch they eat rice and milk,” he said.
Each of the 10 schools has five teachers, a headmaster and three women cooks. The salaries are paid by the Hirshabelle ministry of education. The headmaster is paid $150, the teachers $100, and the cooks $70. The programme, which will run for a year, aims to expand to benefit at least 10,000 students in the region.