Sahro Abdikadir Arte shuffles through a mound of papers as she prepares for a morning meeting with her team of instructors ahead of another teaching session for street children.
For the past 17 months, Sahro and her team of instructors have been running a programme in the port city of Kismaayo that offers formal education to street children free of charge.
The programme, dubbed ubaxa rajada – or flower of hope, in English – is currently offering lessons to 50 street children who had lost hope of acquiring quality education.
“The reason why I established this programme is because I believe a country cannot achieve peace, stability and development until its children are educated and taught useful skills because they are the flowers of hope and leaders of tomorrow,” Sahro says.
The children attend classes five days a week to learn English, Arabic, mathematics and Islamic education (Tarbiyo). The education programme offers a great opportunity to students who might have otherwise fallen prey to extremist groups recruiting children as soldiers or forcing them into child marriage.
“The biggest achievement of this intervention is that the vulnerable children who used to be persuaded to do evil things against peaceful residents are now educated and know the importance of peace, not only in their lives but also in the entire community,” Sahro observes.
The 25-year-old teacher strongly supports the position of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the role of education in society. According to UNESCO, education should be a means to empower children and adults alike to be active participants in the transformation of their societies.
The programme has managed to change the behaviour and attitude of the children, enabling them to partner with the rest of the community in peacebuilding efforts. Society, on the other hand, can thus begin to change its negative perception towards street children, whose individual rights have been ignored for many years, according to Sahro.
“Initially, intellectuals, politicians and others in society were not viewing street children as important in conflict resolution, not knowing that vulnerable children can be easily influenced to carry out evil activities. This attitude is now changing in Kismaayo,” she says.
Thanks to the success of ubaxa rajada, similar programmes have been initiated in Kismaayo and other parts of Jubbaland State, a move that has seen more street children benefiting from free education.
Initially, however, her decision to establish a programme for street children did not go down well with everyone. Sahro had to overcome skepticism from friends and relatives who dismissed her idea as a waste of time and energy.
“My colleagues and workmates used to discourage me, and in several instances they asked me to stop teaching these street children as nothing good will come out it. But I never gave in to their advice and day in, day out, the enrollment of the children increased,” she notes.
Sahro is optimistic about Somalia’s future and strongly believes peace and stability will be fully achieved one day.
“Peace means life; it is the most valuable thing we can have as Somalis, since our country has been in anarchy for over two decades. Achieving peace in Somalia is as important as the gift of life,” she observes.