Meet Bilan, Khadra and Shamis from Somaliland

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Read how GPE is working with the Ministry of Education of Somaliland and Save the Children to improve access to education for all children, especially young girls from marginalized and vulnerable groups like Bilan*, Khadra* and Shamis*.

In Somaliland, less than half of all children are enrolled in primary school. The majority of out-of-school children are among marginalized and vulnerable communities, particularly in rural areas, urban poor, girls, internally displaced persons, returnees and children with disabilities.

A US$24.6 million grant from GPE for the period 2018-2022 has helped the Ministry of Education and Science of Somaliland and its partners, including Save the Children, respond to the critical concerns of inequity in access to learning.

The funding has helped expand access to learning spaces, including public schools and alternative basic education classrooms, for marginalized and vulnerable groups, and ensure safe, protective learning environments for girls and boys.

Bilan: A safe place to learn for internally displaced students

Bilan
“I thought that I would lose my future if I drop out from the school, but I now go to school and chase my dreams to become a doctor in the future.”
Bilan
11-year-old student, Qalax Primary School, Qalax settlement camp, Somaliland

When they first arrived, the camp was missing essential amenities, such as water, electricity, and schools. It was far away from the nearest school, so their children had to walk miles to get a bus to the school, which was unsafe, especially for Bilan.

The family suggested she drop out of school for safety reasons. Bilan was worried she would miss out on education and a social life, and that her parents would burden her with household chores.

In 2020, Save the Children, with the support of GPE, constructed a new school in Qalax camp. Bilan and other children were happy to go to school without having to walk long distances, and families felt at ease knowing their children could access education in a safe place.

Khadra: Girl-friendly spaces help keep girls in school

Khadra
“Before the new girls’ spaces, we had a challenge in using school toilets. Toilets were public for all students, we never knew who will come in. Personally, I didn’t use the school toilets, I wanted to go home when I needed to use them. Now I feel very happy. I can even go and rest in the new girls’ space. All girls come to this space, we use our break time here. We feel like home, and it is for girls only.”
Khadra
15-year-old student, Biyo Dhacay Elementary School, Hargeisa, Somaliland

Khadra is a 15-year-old student in 8th grade at Biyo Dhacay Elementary School in Hargeisa. She lives with her family in a home near the school.

Like many girls across Somaliland, Khadra and her peers face puberty-related challenges at school, which can disrupt learning. For example, during their menstrual cycle, girls do not have a space at school to change their sanitary pads. This has resulted in many girls dropping out of school.

Thanks to the GPE-funded program and support from Save the Children, Khadra’s school has a newly constructed girl-friendly space. She says that this new space gives her and her classmates confidence to come to school, as it is a special room for girls only. This new space is helping keep girls in school and learning.

Shamis: Solar lamps to study at home in the evening

Shamis
“The solar lamps we have received are very helpful. During the coronavirus, schools were closed, and I used to read at night with the lamps.”
Shamis
Grade 8 student, Miigane School, Awdal, Somaliland

Shamis lives with her family in small temporary shelter in a village near Borama, Awdal. She has big dreams and wants to be a doctor.

Unlike the children who live in towns, the availability of light at night is not obvious for Shamis and thousands of children throughout Somaliland. They face challenges in reading their classwork after the sun goes down, as many do not have lights in their homes.

Save the Children has selected Shamis’ school to distribute solar lamps that students can take home for reading in the evening.

The solar lamps became very important during the COVID-19 school closures, as students did distance learning from home.

The lamps are particularly helpful because Shamis and other girls like her can’t simply focus on schoolwork when they get home: they support their parents in household work as well, and the sun may have set by the time they are done.

The solar lamps allowed Shamis to read and study her school subjects as she works toward her goal of becoming a doctor.

* Name has been changed.

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