This blog was previously published by UNICEF.
Baidoa, Somalia: The chorus of young voices rises in cadence, a sweet melody of six dozen children, singing the letters of the Somali alphabet – that they just mastered one week ago.
Standing before the blackboard and leading this rustic symphony at the Mustaqbal Integrated Primary School is a shy 10-year-old girl named Farhia Abdi Moallim.
“I am so happy to learn,” says little Farhia, “I want to be a teacher when I grow big, so I can teach children in my village who cannot go to school.”
Her eyes twinkle with glee, radiant under the all-black abaya robe that covers her whole body, leaving only her face exposed, glowing like the hopeful and happy sun after a dark summer storm.
This a hopeful beginning because all the children sitting on the benches behind her, had never seen the inside of a classroom until four weeks ago.
An ongoing drought has ravaged Somalia for the last four years, drying water wells, killing crops and livestock, and displacing more than a million people to urban centers like Baidoa in South-West Somalia; where they live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), surviving just on humanitarian aid.
This is on top of the 2 million people displaced by the conflict that has battered Somalia for more than three decades; and also includes IDPs from the famine of 2011 and the drought in 2017.
All these factors have had devastating consequences for the children of Somalia. It heightens the learning crisis in a country with more than 3 million children who were not in school, even before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Alongside other humanitarian interventions, UNICEF and education partners are working with the Ministry of Education to provide learning opportunities for children displaced by drought and conflict.