“Give me a CHANCE to learn”
Author: Mohamed Ubo
Access to education for rural children is inextricably linked with the global equation in poverty reduction and rural development. Children are the face of the most pressing issues in rural life and lack education within the walking distance. Children take responsibilities at a very early age, missing out on having basic child rights in Somaliland owing to a cycle of poverty, traditions, and recurrent droughts. According to World Bank estimate in 2014, only 50 percent of the school-aged children of 6-13 years old attend schools in Somaliland—and current enrollment is lower than all countries in the region. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN claimed in 2015 that nearly 57 million primary school-aged in the world are unable to go to school, which marks that 80% of them live in rural areas. There are more than 10 million dropouts in every year in Sub-Saharan Africa. ILO estimated 250 million working children in the developing countries. Africa, Asia, and Latin America account for 90% of total child labor—61% in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% in Latin America.
The initiative of “Give me a CHANCE to Learn” is intended to be a midwife for reducing the disparities in education between urban and rural, and combat child labor. This initiative which has been initiated in 2017, offers notebooks, pens and pencils in its first stage. I have set a target of 20,000 books from Facebook friends in 2018 to 20,000 rural children in all Somaliland regions and now distribution is on the right track. It also sensitizes rural communities to send their children to nearest schools to prepare them to have a career in the future. As part of rising universal enrolment in primary education, Somaliland needs accessing rural communities to basic education to have a far-reaching positive effect on the rural life and combat child labor.
In line with the second goal of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal which was to achieve Universal Primary Education, we decided to give full attention to rural children for the reason that rural areas are beset by arrays of modern challenges which hamper the rural community development prospects. And despite of success stories in big cities and introduction of free primary education in Somaliland, the growth by and large eludes the rural and remote villages.
Comparison towards the Education with rural area has been uneven since 1991—rural education needs urgent attention and grassroots game plan to narrow the gap. Primary education enrolment is 71% in urban and 29% in rural with a total of 213, 369 (118, 130 boys and 95,239 girls from 935 Primary schools with 7,905 teachers in Somaliland) in both public and private schools (Somaliland Educational statistics, 2013/ 2014). As for the MDGs, In April 2000, 164 countries signed the promise that “all children globally would have primary education by 2015”. That was intended to systematically improve education over 15 years but unfortunately; it was not achieved after 15 years.
This initiative encourages government, educational partners and other stakeholders for the provisions of educational facilities and finances to rural education, and building schools within the walking distance as distance matters, distance places a significant strain on rural education. This encourages having two hours schooling system in early mornings or afternoons in areas where parents are worried about missing the simple assistance they get from the child. And Promoting the supply-side of the education equation gives the rural child a chance to learn, a chance to eat, a chance to sleep and a chance to play—Offering books, schools and teachers saves school-aged children from early marriages.
Child employment prevents the child from school and increases adult unemployment. Child labor is the use of children as a labor under the age of 18 for pay or no-pay in a way that damages health, education and spiritual. In 20th century, many legally binding agreements and international conventions were adopted to combat child labor yet it persists. Let’s fight against child labor, and government must be at the forefront of eliminating all its forms.
In rural life, child does much of the house chores like keeping animals, fetching water, and looking for firewood for the cooking—simple household chores are not child labor but most of the current rural children work under slave-like conditions. Keeping in mind that children are the reflection of country’s future, the program: “Give me a CHANCE to Learn” equally sends signals to demand-side of the education equation, raising the awareness of the rural communities and parents to educate their children.
“Give me a CHANCE to learn” encourages policymakers to set targeted milestones to reach rural children and base their policies on understanding of the real impediments in rural school-aged children and then keep an eye on its implementation. Although it is not sufficient, education fund has almost doubled from USD 7.8 million in 2012 to USD 14.6 million in 2016 in Somaliland, yet the pressing challenges ahead on rural children are massive and need the full attention of expanding access to education in remote and poor areas.
In support for this cause and having a coordinating response: the founder—Mohamed Ubo—of this initiative proposes ideas to a couple of Somaliland ministries—like Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Livestock to work together in a package, making the necessary coordination and collaboration to foster rural children education to achieve the internationally agreed education goals of primary education.
Thus, achieving coordinating effort promotes rural-oriented policies, adapts gender- sensitive approaches, enhances education governance, combats child labor, priorities rural education budget within the overall budget of the education, adapts curriculum that suits to the dire living conditions and key challenges of the rural communities, sets appropriate school calendar, and gives attention to create conducive educational environments for the rural children.
In Somaliland, the EU is the largest donor in education sector. In early 2017, EU Ambassador Veronique Lorenzo said: “Successful joint Education reviews are clearly an indicator that the sector-wide approach in Somaliland is taking root, and that the government has assumed ownership and leadership of education initiatives” “As EU we will remain engaged in the education sector in Somaliland and will continue to play our role in strengthening the sector and expanding opportunities for the youth. Education is the key to counter radicalization and the lure of irregular migration”. Thus much of this fund should be wisely shifted to rural and avoid building schools for the sake of schools in rural areas as happens but should also be equipped with all the necessary finances and facilities—for sustainability.
“Give me a CHANCE to Learn” promotes that every child in rural areas has access to basic education, and it sets series of goals that will give every child to learn the basic education. It provides non-traditional learning approaches to educate next generation. It shows that applying urban model will not work. It shows stakeholders to the fact that challenges we know in rural life is a tip of iceberg comparing to the reality on the ground. It breaks all the shackles that weight down the chances of rural children to education in an attempt to defy intergenerational poverty, and become a functioning member of the community down the road.
As there are opportunity costs back at home like cleaning and cooking which prevent rural girls from learning: government, education partners, and other stakeholders should formulate some compensatory and compulsory course of actions that support school-aged girls’ education and build self-sustaining and free boarding schools. Applicable schools should be invented, designed and promoted in rural areas—for example, “new single-class schools and new multi-grade schools”. Public School teachers should be rotated between urban schools and rural schools to balance the availability of teachers and quality of the education. Since 1956, Japan rotates teachers between urban and remote areas. This measure obliges that a public school teacher could not teach one school for a long time, this solved urban-rural disparity. So too, teachers in remote areas should receive a special allowance and attention.
To support this initiative, to achieve universal primary education, and to reach the full potential of the rural child, offer a book, a pen, a pencil, encouragement, voice and facility to combat “illiteracy” and “child labor”. Every child has the right to be educated and every one of us has a stake to increase these chances. Time is not with rural children and women as they are notoriously the face of all pressing challenges. Think outside the box and take a book, a pen and a box of sweats and travel a day to the nearest rural area to know the gloomy everyday reality of rural children and women—both living in slave-like conditions. And with reference to the positive effect of education on “economic growth”, paying full national and international attention to educate rural children is a ticket to break the cycle of poverty.
Give a book; give a pen to a rural CHILD to make a difference (!)