Former militia hideout now a thriving school

Colourful walls, newly painted desks and clean toilets and water points at the school are a sharp contrast of the dilapidated structure that was in a state of neglect and disrepair, once a hideout for a terror group. The school was built in 1978 by the Somali government but was destroyed during the civil war. Between 1980 and 2005, the school was controlled by whichever militia was controlling Somalia and the time. From 2006 various militia used it as their base. From 2010, the facility, in it’s broken down state, was a reception center for new refugee arrivals from Yemen and a distribution center for refugees and returnees.

With the support of UNHCR, AAH Somalia kicked off the rehabilitation of the school under a project to support urban refugees from Yemen to access basic primary education through cash-based interventions for quality education in September 2016. The Yemeni Community School falls under this project.

Despite an initial strategy to enroll children in various schools around Mogadishu, the management of the community school used school fees paid by AAH-I in the first three months to conduct major repairs and renovation. Teachers forfeited their salaries for those three months in recognition of the priority need to renovate the school and make it conducive for learning and teaching.

Students in class at the AAH-I-run Yemeni community school

Once the repairs were completed, AAH-I supplied teachers with reference materials to aid lesson delivery while the children received books, stationery and school bags. The school also received a conditional cash grant. The refugee parents could not afford to pay school fees in private schools in Mogadishu, thus making access to education far from their reach. AAH-I’s experience supporting refugee education in Uganda and Zambia through such cash-based incentives have been key in ensuring school attendance at Yemeni Community School.

The school’s language of instruction is Arabic. The Saudi Arabia curriculum is used at primary level and the Somali national curriculum at secondary level. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Islamic Religious Education, languages (Arabic, Somali language and English), History and Geography Subjects are taught at the school.

Facilitating education for the Yemeni refugees seeks to provide structure and stability for children who have been traumatized by war. The school, supported by UNHCR, was a starting point for creating a skilled workforce in Somalia that can compete in the global economy.

Displaced but not misplaced

Several men sit pensively waiting for their turn on the barber’s chair. Hair will be cut. Beards will be shaved. Some will opt for a mohawk. Others will settle for a complete bald look.

We are in Kakuma refugee camp number three in Turkana West sub-county in the north of Kenya. In the barbershop of 27-year-old Pascal Ntacu, a refugee from Burundi. The camp hosts refugees from East and Central Africa.

Pascal left his parents and 5 siblings in Bujumbura when war escalated in the country in 2014. It took him a long bus ride from Bujumbura to Kampala in Uganda, and then through Malaba and Kitale town in Kenya, finally arriving in Turkana.

“I took up a job as a casual mechanic at a local garage in Kakuma as soon as I arrived from Bujumbura. However, the job was physically exhausting and I developed chest problems and multiple injuries, and had to reconsider my vocation,” says Pascal. “In May 2015, I joined a group of 4 youth – all from Burundi – who were experiencing the same challenges as myself. We were all troubled about this new life as refugees, and were determined to rise above a feeling of hopelessness.”

Pascal and his friends took a loan of KES 100,000 from AAH-I in partnership with Equity Bank, to start individual businesses. Pascal topped up his portion with savings of KES. 18,000 and purchased assorted equipment from Kakuma town and from Lodwar to start the barbershop. Within six months the group managed to pay off the loan as a group, and this gave Pascal time to concentrate on his business. “I am currently earning between KES. 500 and KES. 600 a day after deducting running costs such as consumables of methylated spirit and face towels.”

Pascal and his friends are beneficiaries of AAH Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Assistance Programme (KRAP), set up in 2015 with funding from UNHCR. One of the objectives of KRAP is to address livelihoods resilience through skills enhancement and enterprise development. Along with the loan, beneficiaries received training in August 2015. The training focused on on starting a business, entrepreneurship, building savings and self-reliance. Upon successful completion of the training, they were linked with government authorities for issuance of business permits and market access.

“Being a refugee seeking asylum in a foreign country, I appreciate the support from AAH-I. My current savings stand at KES. 9,000. Although I can now take care of myself, I long for peace to be restored in Burundi.”

South Sudan Peace promoters receive bicycles

Peace committees from the five Bomas (villages) of Otogo Payam in Yei River County, South Sudan have often struggled to access many areas in their peace-building efforts. But this is set to change after they were given five new bicycles to facilitate their movement.

During the official handover of the bicycles at the Payam offices, David Juma, AAH South Sudan’s coordinator for the Capacity Building for Post-conflict Reintegration (CAPOR) Project retaliated the need to work as a team.

“Peace-building is not only the responsibility of the national government. It is a collective responsibility that should also involve grass root level leadership,” urged Juma.

He said the project gave out the bicycles to support the peace team to carry out their activities in the community by making it easy for them to move from village to village.

Emmanuel Asum, a peace committee representative from Goja Boma, said the bicycles given to them have eased to the trouble of moving too far areas. “We were facing difficulties in resolving conflicts in far places. But now it is easy to go there to help our people resolve their disputes,” said Asum.

Otogo Payam administrator, Samuel Luate, appealed to the peace committee members to use the bicycles for project activities.

Luate urged AAH South Sudan to continue supporting communities so that peace and development are realised at all levels.

The bicycles distribution initiative kicked off in the five bomas of Otogo payam in mid-October 2015 and is set to be rolled out in 19 other Bomas in the project’s operational areas.

The CAPOR project strengthens communities’ capability to participate in peace building and reintegration process. This is through the use of concerts, drama, puppetry fine arts, music, movies and theatre to spread awareness. The project operates in the Western and Central Equatoria States of South Sudan in Maridi, Mundri, Wonduruba, and Otogo respectively.

Generous elder supports school

When Ole Sere Primary school started, it had only 20 students who took their lessons under trees. But the devastating 1997 El Niño rains led to massive flooding of the area, sweeping with them the schooling dreams of many children.

But not all was lost because of the heroic act of one man – Joseph Ole Soit, 56, a local community elder. He gave a portion of his land where the school comprising of a nursery and lower primary found a home for the next one year. Even though some of the children had to walk for almost 10 kilometres to reach the school, it was better than not going to school at all.
The school has since moved out of Mzee Soit’s home and is back to its original site thanks to the efforts of the local community with support from AAH-I and the government. In 2011, AAH Kenya built a classroom for Olesere Primary School. The institution has also partnered with other well-wishers and has constructed more classrooms and dormitories for the learners. Currently, the school has 545 pupils and 50 of them boarders. This is a far-cry from the tree school that started 18 years ago.

Duncan Soit, 15, is currently preparing to sit for his final examination at Ole Sere. “I joined the school because it is the only one in the area and nearest to my home. I believe I will do well and make my parents and teachers proud,” he says.

The school’s deputy head teacher Samson Sigei is grateful for AAH-I for the support that made the school a reality. He also appreciates Mzee Soit for his selfless leadership as the school’s chairman, “Mzee helps the school, expecting nothing in return,” says Sigei.

Lusaka clinic launches services for host community

The clinic at Makeni Transit Centre in Lusaka, Zambia has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers since it was established five years ago. But starting this September, the facility, which is run by AAH Zambia, has started offering services to Zambian nationals as well. A capable staff of three led by Nurse Sibango, the in-charge is bringing medical care closer to those with the greatest need.

Lilian Mweene, 35, says the clinic is a walking distance from her house. “I don’t have to travel far to get treatment for my children. The services are very good and affordable,” says Mweene, a mother of four. She says there are sufficient drugs at the facility. On this particular day she is accompanied by two of her children, who are also unwell.

Priscilla Pepala, a registry clerk, says in September they served 142 non-Zambians and 76 Zambians. According to the nurse in charge at the clinic Beanty Sibango, the most common ailments she deals with at the facility are malaria and respiratory infections. “The increased respiratory infection cases are as a result of a lot of dust, due to the dry weather we are currently experiencing in Zambia. But thankfully we have enough medicines for our patients,” says Sibango.

In 2014, 2,150 patients were seen at the Clinic which is supported under the community services sector of the Urban Refugee Programme. AAH Zambia has been running the programme since 2011 with funding from UNCHR.