A group of 14 agencies and non-government organizations led by UNICEF and Save the Children has exposed the devastating effect of conflict, drought and famine on education in Somalia. Urgent action and funding is needed to prevent the situation worsening further when schools reopen in September, the groups warn, after a rapid assessment carried out this month in 10 regions in southern and central Somalia.
“Education is a critical component of any emergency response,” said Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Schools can provide a place for children to come to learn, as well as access health care and other vital services. Providing learning opportunities in safe environments is critical to a child’s survival and development and for the longer term stability and growth of the country.”
The education cluster’s assessment and call for urgent action echo the findings and recommendations of the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, which emphasized not only the dire effect of conflict on education but also the need to include education as part of every emergency response – and education’s key role in restoring stability and breaking the vicious cycle of conflict.
About 1.8 million children aged 5 to 17 are already out of school in southern Somalia. Gross primary enrolment, currently only 30%, could drop even further because of the displacement of an estimated 200,000 school-aged children from urban areas or across the border.
Drought and the country’s ongoing conflict have led to a famine in two regions of southern Somalia – southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. The United Nations says that 3.7 million people – nearly half of the Somali population – are now in crisis and in urgent need of assistance. An estimated 2.8 million of those are in the south, which is largely under the control of the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab.
Thousands of Somali refugees have fled across the border to the already overcrowded refugee camps at Dadaab in Kenya – the world’s largest refugee complex – putting further pressure on efforts to provide education there.
The 2011 GMR reported stark testimony from Dadaab of one direct link between education and conflict, quoting a young male refugee from Somalia who said: “If we can’t get a secondary education and can’t get a job, where will we go? Al-Shabaab has people recruiting here. They are offering money. Some boys who haven’t been able to continue their education have already left the camp to go back to Mogadishu and fight.”