Stories of change I February 2022

Somalia: Giving more children the opportunity to learn during emergencies

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Story highlights

  • Before COVID-19, an estimated 3 million children in Somalia were out of school and those in school were struggling to learn.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic combined with the effects of protracted crises have exacerbated Somalia’s education challenges.
  • Through several interventions, GPE has been supporting Somalia to ensure the most vulnerable children have access to learning.
Somalia map

This story was written in collaboration with Save the Children.

For 3 million school-aged children in Somalia, getting an education is still a distant dream. Challenges confronting the education system are the direct consequence of protracted emergencies – stemming from conflict and natural disasters like drought and flooding – over the past two decades. The COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating education challenges and threatens to put decades of gains at risk.

Key challenges facing the education sector in Somalia include the lack of access to school for too many children and widespread inequity. Even when children go to school, the quality of education is low. This, along with a high number of unqualified and untrained teachers, multiple curricula, poor education infrastructure and weak capacity for service delivery, means children are struggling to learn.

Through two emergency grants, GPE has been supporting the Federal Government of Somalia to ensure the most vulnerable children are in school and learning.

A focus on the most vulnerable students

In 2020, Somalia received a US$9.17 million accelerated grant towards supporting the education of emergency-affected children. The grant, managed by Save the Children, supports the regions with the highest proportion of school-aged children in need of humanitarian assistance. These include children from internally displaced communities, over-age children who never returned to school and children with disabilities.

For the first time in Somalia, the Federal Government, with support from GPE, has launched initiatives to cater to children with disabilities. These initiatives are allowing schools to better support the needs of these children and ensure they are participating and learning.

In an effort to increase equitable access to education, GPE has supported the construction of 82 teaching and learning spaces in locations with the largest concentration of internally displaced Somalis. Furthermore, 50 schools are receiving safe drinking water to help children stay healthy and maintain hygiene and sanitation practices at school – a critical intervention in times of COVID-19.

  • A learning space built under the GPE program in a remote village in southern Somalia. GPE has supported the construction of 82 teaching and learning spaces in locations with the largest concentration of internally displaced Somalis.
    Credit: Save the Children and GPE

Since girls face greater challenges to learn, the GPE program also focuses on initiatives to increase gender equality: gender-segregated latrines have been constructed in 50 schools; 3,000 girls have received sanitary kits and over 4,700 girls have been provided with school uniforms.

To improve learning outcomes, the GPE-funded program has supported the procurement and distribution of nearly 295,000 textbooks and learning materials benefiting over 35,000 students. Additionally, 450 teachers and head teachers in community schools – whose salaries are usually paid by parents – are now receiving financial incentives on a monthly basis. The incentives aim to ensure that the poorest communities, who may not be able to pay teacher salaries, can retain their educators and continue to enroll their children in school.

  • Teacher Najma *Ali, teaches one of the schools supported by the GPE program. She is writing on the blackboard following the resumption of classes after the government eased restrictions related to COVID-19.
    Credit: Save the Children and GPE

  • Ardi*, 14, revising her lessons at school. Ardi received textbooks and other learning materials thanks to GPE support. To improve learning outcomes, the GPE-funded program supported the procurement and distribution of nearly 295,000 textbooks and learning materials benefitting over 35,000 students.
    Credit: Save the Children and GPE

Overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic disrupted education around the world, and Somalia was no exception. To curb the spread, the government closed schools. As there were no distance learning options available at the onset of the pandemic, a large number of children were left without access to education. As in many other countries, the most vulnerable children were the most affected.

A US$5.4 million COVID-19 emergency grant, also managed by Save the Children, enabled the GPE program to focus on promoting learning continuity while ensuring a safe return to school. The COVID-19 grant focused on supporting the most urgent needs that were unlikely to be covered by other donors in the short term.

With these funds, an online platform was launched, which hosts both video and audio educational content. To date, 200 schools have been registered and over 5,000 students are accessing the platform on a daily basis. To ensure wider coverage, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education airs both the audio and video lessons through national TV and radio FM channels.

Suhayba*, 14, benefitted from the online learning platform developed with GPE support to help children access learning during the COVID-19 crisis and ensuing school closure. The platform has helped primary school-aged children to continue learning at home. Credit: Save the Children and GPE
“During the pandemic, we weren’t able to interact with our teachers in the class. But I am happy that I’m still able to learn through this mobile application. The app has both video and audio formats. I enjoy the video formats because I can see what’s being explained. The app is very useful, and I can access it while I’m at home.”
Suhayba*, grade 8 student

Vulnerable students received radios with memory cards and USB flash drives, which carry all lessons for grades 1 to 8. In total, more than 9,900 radios were distributed. To compensate for the limited access to electricity, solar panels were distributed to help students charge and use the radios for lessons. The audio lessons serve 70% of students in hard-to-reach areas, along with marginalized and internally displaced children.

Teacher Najma Ali*, teaches one of the schools supports by the GPE programme. She is writing on the blackboard following resumption of classes after government eased restrictions related to COVID-19.  Credit: Save the Children and GPE
“In the beginning, we were worried about what would happen to our students, but with this online and offline learning system, learning continued for many children while at home. With the support of parents and teachers remotely, I believe this system of learning will help children continue their classes during school closures.”
Najma Ali*, teacher

The COVID-19 grant also ensured children with disabilities continued learning during the pandemic. It supported the production and distribution of over 8,600 copies of braille textbooks, which benefitted more than 650 visually impaired students. In addition, 199 hearing-impaired students received assistive devices.

Thanks to GPE’s support, 199 hearing-impaired students, including Abdinasir, received assistive devices. Now Abdinasir can listen and actively participate in class. Credit: Save the Children and GPE
"Previously I had difficulty hearing. I wasn’t able to fully follow the teachers’ explanations during class. My ear had pain sometimes. The assistive device have helped me a lot to hear everything. I’m also confident to ask questions in class."
Abdinasir*, 13-year-old student

With the new assistive device, Abdinasir can now learn better

His family had noticed that Abdinasir*, 11, had difficulties hearing, but no one recognized the severity of the problem until he started attending school.

Credit: Save the Children and GPE

At first, some teachers assumed Abdinasir was purposely not responding whenever he was quizzed. Soon, they realized he had trouble hearing. As there were no alternative ways to support his impairment, Abdinasir used to sit in the front of the classroom to improve his chances of hearing his teachers.

Credit: Save the Children and GPE

Thanks to GPE’s support, 199 hearing-impaired students, including Abdinasir, received assistive devices. Now Abdinasir can listen and actively participate in class.

Credit: Save the Children and GPE

This is the first time in Somalia that initiatives were launched to grant equitable access to education for children with disabilities, who can finally participate in school – a step towards ensuring no child is left behind.

Credit: Save the Children and GPE
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The GPE program is encouraging a safe return to school for students by procuring and distributing 10,900 water, sanitation and hygiene supplies including soap, hand sanitizer, cleaning gloves and buckets, among other materials. Furthermore, another 42 schools can now access safe drinking water as a result of this grant.

Results

Fostering a partnership approach

GPE’s contributions go beyond funding. The GPE partnership approach has fostered coordination within the education sector by encouraging regular meetings of the education sector committee in Mogadishu, and annual joint sector reviews to monitor the implementation of Somalia’s education sector plan. The European Union plays a key role as the coordinating agency for GPE’s work in Somalia, and USAID is chairing an education donor group.

The two GPE accelerated funding grants were also developed in close collaboration with the Somalia Education Cluster that coordinates education in emergencies. These efforts have proven to be an effective catalyst for a better coordinated and harmonized approach to improving education in Somalia.

GPE is helping the Federal Government of Somalia focus on the most pressing needs of the education system, but of equal importance is how GPE’s support has improved sector dialogue and brought partners together under common goals. By working in partnership, the Federal Government of Somalia, GPE and other development partners is able to transform the education system at scale.

*Name has been changed.