In only two months, some 57,000 out-of-school children in northeast Somalia have been registered -- by youngsters their own age -- in a United Nations-sponsored initiative to get children in the war-torn country involved in the Back to School campaign.
Conceived as part of an advocacy and social mobilization strategy to boost enrolment in the Campaign, the core aim of the initiative was to find out the number of primary school age children (6-14 years) who are out of school in Puntland. Through its findings, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners will explore opportunities to provide education to the children.
The idea of child-to-child registration arose out of consultations between UNICEF and the Puntland Ministry of Education, women’s, youth and student associations, school mentors, community education committee mobilizers, and international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The initiative in Puntland targeted Bossaso, Gardo, Galkaio, Garowe, Burtinle and Goldogob towns and six villages - Wa’iye, Dangoraio, Hafun, Bargaal, Bursalah and Ballidhidin. So far, the registration has been taken place in Bossaso, Gardo, Garowe, Galkaio, Hafun and Dangoraio.
Boys comprise 53.5 per cent of the out-of-school children registered, and 43.5 per cent are girls. With nearly 450 settlements in Puntland, it is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 children are out of school.
According to UNICEF, the child-to-child initiative has highlighted several important lessons, including that students can be effective in carrying out data collection and enrolment campaigns and that the data obtained give a realistic picture. Before the campaign the perception was that out-of-school children were few in urban areas, the number of boys and girls who are out of school was equally significant and emphasis should be on getting both girls and boys to school in equal measure.
UNICEF will continue to undertake advocacy and social mobilization campaigns to sensitize parents on the importance of educating their children. Similar activities will be organized in collaboration with communities in Bossaso, Garowe and Galkaio.