The bell rings at 10:30am at the Yemeni Community School in Mogadishu. Students form neat queues to return to their classrooms after a tea break. These 229 boys and 191 girls aged between 5 and 17 years have just had a packet of milk and two biscuits, which is part of the school’s feeding programme.
Colourful walls, newly painted desks and clean toilets and water points at the school are a sharp contrast of the dilapidated structure that was in a state of neglect and disrepair, once a hideout for the Al-Shabaab terror group. The school was built in 1978 by the Somali government but was destroyed during the civil war. Between 1980 and 2005, the school was controlled by whichever militia was controlling Somalia and the time. From 2006 the al-Shabaab used it as their base. From 2010, the facility, in it’s broken down state, was a reception center for new refugee arrivals from Yemen and a distribution center for refugees and returnees.
With the support of UNHCR, AAH Somalia kicked off the rehabilitation of the school under a project to support urban refugees from Yemen to access basic primary education through cash-based interventions for quality education in September 2016. The Yemeni Community School falls under this project. Despite an initial strategy to enroll children in various schools around Mogadishu, the management of the community school used school fees paid by AAH-I in the first three months to conduct major repairs and renovation. Teachers forfeited their salaries for those three months in recognition of the priority need to renovate the school and make it conducive for learning and teaching.
Once the repairs were completed, AAH-I supplied teachers with reference materials to aid lesson delivery while the children received books, stationery and school bags. The school also received a conditional cash grant. The refugee parents could not afford to pay school fees in private schools in Mogadishu, thus making access to education far from their reach. AAH-I’s experience supporting refugee education in Uganda and Zambia through such cash-based incentives have been key in ensuring school attendance at Yemeni Community School.
The school’s language of instruction is Arabic. The Saudi Arabia curriculum is used at primary level and the Somali national curriculum at secondary level. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Islamic Religious Education, languages (Arabic, Somali language and English), History and Geography Subjects are taught at the school.
Facilitating education for the Yemeni refugees seeks to provide structure and stability for children who have been traumatized by war. The school, supported by UNHCR, was a starting point for creating a skilled workforce in Somalia that can compete in the global economy.