The collapse of the Somali state in 1991 and subsequent decades of conflict accompanied the disintegration of the country’s infrastructure, amongst which included key education services. This affected both those who fled and those who stayed. In our previous edition of this newsletter we described the hesitations and hopes many refugees in Kenya had concerning their return. Today as RET International builds the foundations necessary to operate in Somalia, with the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migrations, we will give voice to the concerns of the Somali youth who had stayed in Somalia.
In Dobley for example, a town close to the Kenyan border, there are numerous challenges facing the education sector. Lack of educational controls, trained teachers, unified curricula and of course very limited resources and access are the concerns commonly listed by young people locally.
One such youth is Hassan, who remained in Somalia despite periods of conflict and famine. Hassan has never been to school and is critical of his parents’ choice of staying in Somalia rather than fleeing to the Dadaab refugee camps, where he would have benefited from free education services.
The sentiment that Somalis who fled the country have an advantage over those who remained is widely held in Dobley. Hassan fears the return of refugees from the Dadaab camps in Kenya because, in comparison to his own education, they will be equipped with superior knowledge and technical skills.
As one interacts with youth in Dobley a common thread emerges. The youth often lament that through the civil war and conflicts, they have been “desperately left behind in Somalia with no social amenities and services provided”. It is therefore absolutely clear that strategies to accompany the return of Somali refugees will have to take into account the educational needs of the youth who stayed. Supporting one group and not the other would make reintegration impossible.
RET International has therefore taken the initiative of establishing a footprint in Dobley. RET International is an active member of the Education Cluster there and recently conducted a survey of all six existing schools, as well as in depth interviews with youth in order to understand the gaps that need to be addressed in this region. For many youth, basic literacy and numeracy is a challenge in itself; which highlights the scale of their educational needs.
RET International has also begun using its expertise in strengthening Youth Adult Partnerships to disseminate this knowledge and build the capacities of existing youth groups in Dobley. Thus far, RET International has trained 60 youth, the majority of whom (73%) are young women.
A long and difficult road lies ahead, but at RET International, we believe in taking the time to understand local preoccupations, needs and assets in order to take the optimal direction for all and to start to lay a strong foundation on the path to recovery and re-building of Somalia.