- Title: SOMALIA: Children return to school in restive Mogadishu
- Date: 18th April 2012
- Summary: MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BUSY MOGADISHU STREET/ GOODS IN MARKET
- Embargoed: 3rd May 2012 13:00
- Location: Somalia, Somalia
- Country: Somalia
- Topics: Politics,Education
- Reuters ID: LVA634WZCV4Z4TD8OCVQBP98EFC2
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- Story Text: For years, going to school in Mogadishu was a risky undertaking for children of all ages. The capital has been paralysed by more than 20 years of anarchy, during which fighting between Islamist militias and armed groups and government forces have wrecked attempted political settlements and perpetuated war, instability and famine.
Caught in the middle of it all, generations of Somalia's children have grown up with little or no education.
The al-Shabaab militant Islamist group pulled its fighters out of Mogadishu in August under military pressure from an African Union (AU) force and since then many businesses and schools have began to function once more.
Somali ministry of education figures put primary school enrolment up by 68 percent since al-Shabaab's withdrawal, and officials say class benches made to seat three students now hold five.
Older students left behind in the curriculum share classes with children three or four classes behind them. But many of these older students are just happy to be back in school.
"What I am expecting is a better future after returning to my former school. All I want to get is an education," said Isse Ahmed Abdalla a grade 7 student.
"Day after day children are coming to school for registration and classes are getting crowded because people recognize that the only way they can help their children survive is to get them an education," said Ali Osman Ali, headmaster at the al-Najah primary and secondary school in Mogadishu.
Huge problems remain in Somalia where one in four Somalis is either a refugee or internally displaced.
The bombing of Somalia's national theatre earlier this month killing at least six people reminded Mogadishu residents that violence was still never far away. Although the blast demonstrated the militants' continued ability to strike at the heart of the city and government, counter-terrorism experts say they are in a weaker position now than at any other time during their insurgency.
Education minister Aideed Ibrahim says this year parents and guardians feel more confident about sending children to school.
"After the security improved children are getting the opportunity to go back to school peacefully. This is why the classes have become overcrowded in the last five months," he said in his office.
Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world but is a rare example of how an economy can still function - but not flourish - without a national government.
The conflict, however, has had a greater toll on the education sector. A 2011 UN report found that only 30 percent of children aged 5 to 17 were enrolled in school in southern Somalia; a total of about 1.8 million children were out of school.
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