Learning for Peace in South Somalia

Published: April 15, 2015

somali girlsDollow, South Somalia: Seventeen year old Osob Abdullahi Mohamed carefully inserts a thread through a sewing machine needle, spreads the fabric in position and quickly kicks the machine into motion stitching the pieces together.
“It is a lady’s blouse,” says Osob whose family was forced to flee due to conflict and now lives in a camp for displaced people in Dollow town, south central Somalia. “It is exciting to do this, I feel lucky to have been chosen for this course. I’m hoping to start my own business, once I complete the training.”
Osob is attending school for the first time, thanks to the UNICEF supported “Learning for Peace Programme” funded by the Dutch Government. The Programme supports this Youth Education Pack Centre, (YEP) established six months ago and six others. The Centre offers students vocational skills such as carpentry, tailoring and beauty care as well as basic literacy and numeracy.
“I would still be at home doing domestic work or probably married if I hadn’t joined this school,” says Osob confidently. “But now I’m learning, tailoring, Somali, English, Mathematics and business management.”

Until recently 15 year-old Ismail Ahmed used to spend his days at home helping with house work or hanging out with friends. He had never been to school. Now, he is one of the 100 youth enrolled in the 10 month long course at the Education Centre.
“Before joining this institution, I couldn’t read or write,” says Ismail Ahmed, whose family is also displaced and who wants to become a carpenter. “Now, I can write my name and make chairs and small tables with the skills I’m learning here. I want to be marketable so that I can earn money for myself and assist my family.”
Ismail’s mother Suldano Gedow Ali is happy about her son’s progress in school. When schools were destroyed during the conflict in their hometown, the local fighting groups recruited a number of boys of her son’s age
“I was worried about his future, “says Suldano, the mother of four children. “I didn’t want him to end up being a casual labourer or joining the militia groups. But I’m happy he got this opportunity to learn. He tells me he is learning good things.”
The Youth Education Pack is designed to benefit children and youth from communities affected by conflict. The selection criterion gives priority to children from displaced families and vulnerable children from the host community. Girls are given the same opportunities as boys.
A community-selected Education Committee meets regularly to plan and ensure the smooth running of the Education Centre. They mobilize the parents to enroll their children, ensure qualified teachers are recruited, talk to the parents of school drop outs and manage any emerging conflicts in the school.
“This school is a great opportunity for the community of Dollow,” says Omar Aden Hade a committee member, whose daughter is pursuing beauty care course at the Centre. “All these children and youth were idle and some have contributed to the instability in this town, but now they are engaged, they are learning life skills and peace lessons.”
“These children are from different clans that are sometimes in conflict with each other,” says Aden Shabellow Ahmed, another committee member. “So when people see their children are sitting and learning together in the same class without any problem, this will change their perception and contribute to peace building.”
UNICEF through its partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council supported the construction of the school and ensured that the learning materials were appropriate to provide inclusive and conflict sensitive education.
In a recent opening ceremony for the YEP Centre in Dollow, UNICEF Country Representative Stephen Lauwerier encouraged the students to use the opportunity to acquire skills that would build their future and bring peace in their community.
“These skills that are important and will get the youth on the right road,” says Mr. Lauwerier. “We are assisting them to build a peaceful society, so as they learn together, they can take those peaceful messages into their homes and community.”
Learning for Peace is a global programme, which aims to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and human security in countries experiencing or recovering from conflict. In South Central Somalia, UNICEF has supported the building and rehabilitating of four Youth Education centres in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayu and Dollow. Three more centres have been opened in Puntland.
Non formal youth education under the Learning for Peace programme targets 2150 boys and girls between 14 and 24. After the training at the Centres, the students will receive support from UNICEF and NRC to find internships and jobs, while others will be supported with necessary tools to start their own businesses.

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