Friday, May 28, 2010

Somalia: Reaching Somali children through radio

Source: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Decades of civil war in Somalia have taken a toll on education, with primary schools shattered or closed, textbooks and other supplies ruined, and illiteracy soaring. Many young Somalis have joined street gangs and extremist groups.

So when the opportunity for a free education arrived, children were ready to attend. Hamda Mohamed, an 8-year-old girl attending Daami Learning Center in Hargeisa, is one example. "Before joining this learning center, I did not know how to read and write," she said. "I used to stay at home to help with housework. Today I can write a letter to someone. "I like learning from the radio. It's fun and helps me memorize educational songs."

At the learning center, Hamda participates in lessons supported by the Somali Interactive Radio Instruction Program (SIRIP), a USAID initiative begun in 2009 to support those forced from their homes by war or drought.

SIRIP provides basic education for children who have been out of school. They learn to read, do math, and tackle life skills. SIRIP has established 245 learning centers and enrolled more than 24,000 out-of-school children among displaced people and other needy communities.

An important feature is the radio component, which allows Hamda and many others to take part in daily lessons that use games, songs, and drama. The benefits aim to reach teachers as well as students. "Personally, as a teacher, the radio programs have strengthened my teaching skills," says Kaltoum Hassan Abdilahi of Daami Learning Center. "I gain a variety of teaching techniques from each lesson. These include classroom management, ways to improve student motivation, questioning techniques, etc."

SIRIP also provided education to 300 Gaboye children in the Daami neighborhood center in Hargeisa. The Gaboye people are a marginalized group that has historically been labeled as untouchable by other Somali clans. They have been subject to mistreatment and degrading conditions for years, resulting in widespread poverty. Their children's basic rights to education have been denied.

The Gaboye and other communities have embraced SIRIP, and parents have expressed their appreciation. Beneficiaries are required to establish a community education committee to help maintain the learning center and support the teacher.

Hassan Isse Dubad is the chairperson of the Daami committee. "We are very proud for these learning centers. I believe that these learning centers will transform the lifestyle of our communities," Dubad said. "Before these learning centers were established, our children used to play on the streets without doing anything," he said. "But now, thanks to Allah and to the donor, our children are benefiting from the free education. They are busy with their studies all day."

Though her parents are illiterate and her father is unemployed, Hamda understands the importance of education. "When I grow up," she said, "I want to be a teacher, to teach children."

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