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13% of Somali students receiving food assistance in schools

Emergency education survey completed; 13% of Somali students receiving food assistance in schools represents missed opportunity to address famine


Saturday, November 05, 2011

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NAIROBI/GENEVA -  Despite substantial gains on the ground in central and southern Somalia, a recent survey to provide a snapshot on school conditions shows hundreds of thousands of children receive no food assistance in school in the midst of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. While local and international education partners have intensified efforts to provide essential services through schools and are now reaching more than 400,000 children, 45% of whom are girls, in over 1,900 schools, the survey also indicates that almost 16% of assessed schools in central and southern Somalia have failed to re-open for the new academic year because of displacement, insecurity, and a lack of funds.

About the assessment

The Joint Education Needs Assessment was coordinated by the Somalia Education Cluster, a group of national and international education actors working to meet the emergency education needs of all children in Somalia.  Covering 628 schools in 45 districts, it is the first comprehensive survey to describe school conditions in central and southern Somalia since the start of the 2011-2012 academic year. A total of 40 education partners carried out the assessment in mid-October through visits to schools, physical examinations of school premises, and meetings with Community Education Committees, teachers, and other education personnel. The assessment included 497 primary schools, 51 secondary schools, and 80 non-formal education facilities.

Key findings

School personnel across central and southern Somalia indicated that school feeding, cash transfers, and take-home rations were among their top priorities. Yet the assessment found that only 13% of schools currently provide any form of food assistance, revealing a missed opportunity to address the famine through school-based support to students and families. Other priorities included the construction and rehabilitation of classroom space as well as incentives to support teachers in a context where very few school personnel receive salaries.

Reports from education partners indicate that at least 93 schools and learning spaces are occupied by internally displaced persons and are therefore unavailable for classes. Together with schools that have failed to re-open for the new academic year, the use of educational facilities as shelter for displaced people has exacerbated the strain on Somalia’s already depleted education system, where 1.8 million children aged 5-17 were out of school even before the onset of the recent crisis.

Areas where displaced people have settled as well as a broader network of education partners resulting from the increase in emergency resources received over the past several months has meant enrolments are rising in a number of famine-affected areas, including Banadir, Galgadud, Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, and Lower and Middle Shabelle. Nearly 60% of the assessed schools that had successfully re-opened reported higher enrolment than the previous year, with an average of 53 additional students per school. On average, an additional two classrooms are needed at each of these schools in order to cater to the increased demand.

Other key assessment findings include:

·        At schools that have successfully re-opened, drought and displacement have prevented approximately 13% of teachers from returning to their posts.
·        The majority of assessed schools lack health and hygiene activities, rendering children vulnerable to outbreaks of diarrhoea and cholera. Soap is not available at 97% of schools, and only 14% of schools offer hygiene promotion.
·        At the majority of schools, drinking water is located within 100 meters; however, children in 28% of schools have to walk more than 1 km to access a water source.

Education partners currently implement a wide range of programmes across central and southern Somalia, including the provision of textbooks, school supplies, support to teachers, school rehabilitation and construction, and training and capacity-building initiatives for education personnel.  As the crisis in Central and Southern Somalia continues, it will be vital to ensure that schools are viewed as entry points for services and part of a package of essential interventions for children and their families.

“The threats of extreme malnutrition and disease as well as ongoing conflict may prevent hundreds of thousands of children from realizing their right to attend school and receive a quality education” says Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia’s Representative.  “While we are grateful for the enormous support we have thus far received, additional investments are now needed to provide schools with essential services to attract children to school and keep them in the classroom.  Doing so will help to prevent a dwindling number of youth that are appropriately skilled and give hope for Somalia’s future.”

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.  For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org