NEW YORK (August 10, 2011)— With an estimated 1.8 million children between 5-17 years of age already out of school in southern and central Somalia, a rapid assessment conducted by the Education Cluster, in ten regions, warns this number could increase dramatically when schools open in September unless urgent action is taken.
The assessment, which was carried out last week, indicates that with the movement of an estimated 200,000 school-age children who have migrated to urban areas or across the border due to hunger, the gross primary school enrolment of 30% could plummet even further. This is likely to be compounded by an acute shortage of teachers and an increase in demand for education services in areas where influxes of internally displaced people have been the greatest, such as in Mogadishu.
"Education is a critical component of any emergency response," said Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Somalia Representative. "Schools can provide a place for children to come to learn, as well as access health care and other vital services. Providing learning opportunities in safe environments is critical to a child’s survival and development and for the longer term stability and growth of the country."
Already, most of 10,000 teachers across the southern and central regions are dependent on incentives paid through the support of Education Cluster partners. Results indicate that in Lower and Middle Juba as well as Bay regions, up to 50 percent of teachers may not return to the classroom when schools reopen.
The findings indicate that school feeding, provision of learning materials, teacher incentives and additional learning spaces are the top priorities in order to ensure that children can access learning opportunities, many for the first time.
While Education Cluster partners are scaling-up their emergency education activities to meet the needs identified in the assessment, more than $20 million will be needed to carry out the plans. Funding received to date is inadequate, and funding gaps in the education sector have reached their highest levels in the last four years.
Support is urgently needed to establish temporary learning spaces in camps for the internally displaced, support additional classroom space to accommodate new learners in host communities where people have migrated, provide water and sanitation facilities, provide school kits of essential education and recreational material to 435,000 children, provide incentives to 5,750 teachers and strengthen the Community Education Committee’s involvement in schools. Plans are also underway to provide food vouchers through schools to benefit learners and their families and provide an incentive for children to stay in school, or to enroll for the first time in their lives.
"After decades of neglect and lack of funding, the educational opportunities for school-aged children in Somalia are already dire, so it is imperative that we do everything we can to make sure the situation does not get worse,” said Chorlton. "The assessment findings also reinforced the message from communities on the ground that education is a priority for their children."
The rapid assessment conducted by the Education Cluster, which is co-led by UNICEF and Save the Children, was carried out by 14 non-governmental organizations and their partners on the ground, examining conditions at 589 learning centers, including community schools, schools for the internal displaced and private schools. One cluster partner led the assessment in each region with data compiled based on interviews with school principals, Community Education Committees—made up of elders, parents and teachers—and grassroots organizations.