Conflict in central Somalia leads to displacement of Amara children, disrupting their education.

Scores of children in the central Somali town of Amara have had their education disrupted after families were forced to flee during the recent recapture of the town by Al-Shabab militia from government forces.

Approximately 2,500 families left their homes in Amara in February, scattering to various locations such as Garab-Adde, Dhaan-daya, Seego, Godinlabe, Adado, and Bahdo in the Mudug and Galgadud regions.

Most of these families’ children have been unable to find alternative schools.

Hussein Farah Awale, 70, a father of 14 children and husband to three wives, had 10 of his children enrolled in school in Amara. When the town was taken over, he moved one of his wives and five older children to stay with relatives in Bari IDP camp in Adado, which is more than 200 kilometers away, to access a free school.

Unable to afford moving his entire large family to Adado, he and the rest of his family relocated to the village of Garab-Adde, located 10 kilometers outside Amara. However, his younger children cannot reach their school in Amara, and there is no school in the village.

Hussein is worried that his younger children will miss the national exams scheduled for May.

“If we had peace, we could resume the children’s schooling and return to our lives together, but without peace, we don’t have any plans. If we get peace, we can go back to our lives, but if we don’t, we cannot do much except rely on God,” said Hussein.

Hussein stated that they struggle to find food and water in their new village, although local families, who are pastoralists and farmers, sometimes help them. They sleep rough under the trees, having left all their belongings behind while fleeing Amara.

“We have fallen on hard times as we were living in the town and now we’re living in remote areas. I came here along with children, elderly people, and pregnant women. We don’t have food or water. We will only be able to get the children back in school once everything else is in order,” he said.

Also displaced from his home in Amara due to the conflict is Abdiweli Abdullahi Ada, who has been supporting his four nieces and nephew since their father died in 2020. Also prioritizing education, he has moved with the children to Adado, where they joined the tuition-free Omar Al-Faruk school.

Immediately after fleeing Amara, they went to Dhaan-daya village, where they stayed for two months but were unhappy because there were no schools.

“We decided to find another place where the children can get a better life and education, so we came to Adado here, hoping to find better living conditions and education in this area,” he said.

Abdiweli said he was looking for a teaching job to enable them to stay in the town and make a living.

“We have got the life we were looking for in Adado, we have got peace and education, the rest will follow God willing,” he said optimistically.

Abdiweli said they couldn’t find any vehicle to transport them and their 20 goats in the scramble to get out of Amara, so they had to abandon the livestock.

Children in Amara were being educated at the town’s only primary and secondary school, which has been supported by the diaspora for the last 14 years.

According to Mohamud Mohamed Jama, the head of Iftin, an umbrella organization that oversees 11 schools in Mudug and Galgadud regions, there were 300 students enrolled at Amara school, and only 40 have been able to continue their education in schools in Adado.

The rest of the children had been forced out of school at a critical time due to the chaos caused by the ongoing conflict.

“The school in Amara was important for the people. There are five batches of students who have graduated from the secondary school since 2009, and the sixth was set to graduate,” Mohamud said.

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