(ERGO) – Zeynab Osman Ahmed was reunited with her 14-year-old-son Ahmed Arab Ahmed this month after an absence of five years. Ahmed ran away from home at the age of nine to live on the streets in the Somaliland capital Hargeisa.
“My son joined the street children in 2016, when I couldn’t afford to enroll him in school for economic reasons,” said Zeynab, who was delighted to have her son back. “I never thought I would have him back again.”
Zeynab says she is grateful to the Somaliland Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs and Family government, who provided Ahmed with an education at the Mohamed Moge Rehabilitation Centre for two years.
Ahmed was one of 14 children from the centre who were reunited with their family in February and enrolled in schools near their homes to continue their education.
Ahmed is now at Jingadda Primary school, three kilometres away from their home, just outside Hargeisa. The ministry is paying uniform and stationery.
The centre, which has been receiving street children for seven years, was recently renovated by the ministry and is accommodating 39 boys and 11 girls, who will be reunited with their families at some stage.
Muna Abdi Mohamed, the head of the centre, explained that the ministry interviews the children to find out their full names and clan affiliation before sending someone to find the family and inform them that their child is in the centre. The children are given a medical assessment on admission to the centre, where they are provided with food, clothing, and education. They receive medical treatment and are counselled to stop or avoid drug use.
When the parents are located, an assessment is made of their needs and ability to support the children before they are returned.
Fadumo Osman, a resident of Mohamed Moge IDP camp, could not hide her excitement to have her 13-year-old back home.
“I even contemplated disowning him after he joined the street children. His physical appearance changed, but now he looks good, you wouldn’t even think he was once a street child,” she said.
However, Fadumo felt that he might have been better off staying in the centre, where he reached class four after three years of studies.
“I am worried now that he is out, he might join them again since his friends are still in the camp,” she said.
Fearing bad influences in the camp, Faduma declined the ministry’s support to enroll him in a nearby school. Instead, she is planning to send him to stay with her brother’s family in the city.
The Mohamed Moge centre has so far reunited 200 street children with their families. Most of them come from Borama, Wajale, Gabiley, Burao, Berbera and Hargeisa. The ministry says it is committed to getting children off the streets and back with their families, although the centre is limited in the numbers of children it can accommodate.