Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

The Value of Educating Children With Disabilities in Somalia

Although reliable statistics are hard to come by, at least several thousand children with physical or psychological disabilities are estimated to live in Puntland, Somalia. Many of them are in urgent need of special education or are excluded from the educational system altogether. However, local education officials, NGOs and schools lack the technical and financial capacity to adequately work on special-needs education. While measures are being put in place, they must go even further if they are to be effective.

Globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that 10% of the world’s population have disabilities. If we add the prospects of civil war and extreme poverty, that figure could rise up to as much as 12-15% or more.

In Somalia, these statistics are painfully evident. The country remains one of the worst and most alarming humanitarian crises in the world. UNHCR estimates that 1.5 million people are displaced within the country, many in areas inaccessible to humanitarian workers. The recent civil war resulted in many Somali civilians losing their sight and/or suffering horrific injuries often caused by landmines or other explosives. In 2010, at least 7,600 people reported weapons-related injuries in the capital of Mogadishu alone, an average of more than 20 a day. One in five injured was a child (UNHCR Global Report 2010). Of course, too, access to other basic services such as health or social services remain a challenge, and thus a situation of isolation, poverty and unemployment is inevitable.

In order for any significant intervention to bear fruit, the following must be considered. First, the Somali culture, including the attitudes and perceptions of people towards disability, must be well understood. Some families see disability as a curse or punishment from God and opt to keep their disabled children indoors. Others don’t see the benefits of education for their disabled daughter. On the contrary, they argue that the health of the disabled child will only further deteriorate. This is mainly due to widespread fear related to insecurity; girls’ with disabilities are more vulnerable to be taken advantage of and as a result parents keep them at home where it is safer. Girls living with disabilities are further marginalized by communities because their special needs are not well understood nor met, and they are not given the opportunity to contribute to society.

Despite the challenges, there are ways children with disabilities can be integrated into the educational system.

All over Somalia, for instance, children between two and three years old are placed in informal, privately-owned education institutions known as dugsi (school). They are taught how to read and write the Holly Koran in an Arabic script. The school's moalim (teacher) is typically the one who identifies early on if a child has speech or learning difficulties. The Ministry of Education and donors should work more closely with these moalims as they play a crucial role in the early years of children, and have a strong link with parents and the community.

Lobbying and grassroots advocacy could also raise awareness not only in Puntland, but throughout Somalia. The Ministry of Education, education stakeholders and local NGOs should give priority to children with disabilities to get education while also improving access to schools and hospitals. People's attitudes, lack of public awareness and sensitisation are the real barriers to the development of these children -- not their impairments.

Local and international education officials working in Puntland must take a more active and well-coordinated role in providing "Inclusive Education" for all children in the area. Education providers, including the Ministry, should offer quality education for all children by improving the capacity of the education system to respond flexibly and creatively to the individual needs of the children, through teacher training, learning aids and other measures.

The most important lesson I have learned as someone working in the education sector is listening to the concerns, wishes, voices, and needs of families and community members. This builds trust and relationships, and ingrains an even better sense of responsibility for the benefit and welfare of girls.

Children with disabilities can contribute productively to society and lead independent lives, if they are given the opportunity. Let's give them the opportunity.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Downloads

Comments

amiesissoho's picture

Sahro you have raised very

Sahro you have raised very important points relating to attitudes of people towards disabilities especially where children are concern. The education of people with disabilities can make a difference. I agree with you that we should create the environment where they would have opportunities to realize their potentials. well done for choosing the topic.

Amie

Sahro's picture

Thank you!

Amie, how are you/
You know it is always a joy hearing and reading from you.
Thank you for your comments and i am so grateful to WP for connecting us.
Are you on Facebook? Please add me 'Sah Koshin"
xoxox, Sah

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Stella Paul's picture

Agree with Amie

Dear Sahro

This, indeed, is an important issue and thanks for raising it here. I can't agree any more that children with disabilities need to be treated as children who are differently abled both by the govt and by the society. Just curious to know: what are the current facilities provided by the government to these children,or disabled people altogether? In India, we have reservation of jobs in government offices. We too are far from providing well for our people with disability, but creating policies can be a good start. Keep talking Sahro, it will happen someday! Love

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Sahro's picture

Thank you so much Stella!

Stella,
Thank you for thinking of us on your tweet.
Was good to once again hear from you. As for your question, the answer is none.
Thank you for your support, always.

xoxox, Sah

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

jbaljko's picture

Raising awareness

Hello Sahro,
You raise may valid concerns. Finding ways to integrate children with disabilities is a challenge in most countries, and takes patience, ingenuity and dedication to raise awareness. Looking forward to reading more about the programs you have seen implemented in other regions and how best practices could be developed for Somalia.

Great article,
Jenn

"The secret of happiness is freedom,
and the secret of freedom, courage."
-Thucydides, ancient Greek historian & author

Sahro's picture

Thank you Jenn

Jenn,

I saw the tweet about this article, thank you for that.
Many thanks also for your guidance and this comment.
I will keep you updated about the development of this advocacy work.

Best, Sah

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Celine's picture

Hi Sahro

Thank you for raising this important issue of education for children with disabilities.
You rightly pointed out that girls with disabilities are more vulnerable, yet keeping them in the house worsens the situation. They need empowerment to be able to handle their situation. Education for persons with disabilities is very critical as persons with different forms of disabilities have needs peculiar to the kind of disabilities.
In some places, for inclusive education to work well, teachers must have skills to communicate the hearing impaired and the blind through braille.

Congratulations for this important advocacy work on education of children with disabilities in Somalia.

Celine.

Sahro's picture

Thank you Celine!

Hallo Celine,
Good to hear from you and your encouraging words.

This is only the beginning of a very long journey.....

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Zah, Thanks for choosing

Dear Zah,
Thanks for choosing this topic which is so important. You are doing great sisi, God bless ya, you always amaze me with your wonderful efforts.

Keep me updated with the outcome of the London conference, so keen of knowing it :)

Cheers!

Sahro's picture

Shukran Marian

Waad mahadsantahay abaayo macaan!
See you soon.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

usha kc's picture

Sahro,, thank you for your

Sahro,, thank you for your post dear as it let us to know about disabilty and society's attitude. It's some how same in Nepal too.

You did great job raising this issue .

Sahro's picture

Thank you Usha! So good to

Thank you Usha!
So good to hear from you.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Jan K Askin's picture

Abilities Education

Dear Sahro,

Your article touched me. I am a retired educator with a lot of experience helping so-called disabled children to become part of the mainstream.

It has been my experience that so-called "typical" children benefit as much, if not more, from interaction with children labeled with a disability. They learn to identify a more expansive understanding of the word "ability" as they learn with and from each other.

In the end, whole societies can learn to be open and accepting and tolerant when we seek to include all children in out educational and social institutions.

(Also, I agree with you: early is best. Children should be getting help at aged two or three.)

Your sister,

Jan

Jan Askin

Sahro's picture

Thank you!

Jan, thank you.
I am so overwhelmed by the many positive responses that i am now considering pitching this article (after some more thorough research).

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Jan K Askin's picture

You are welcome.

Best wishes on your pitch project!

Jan Askin

BlueSky's picture

I Salute You

Sahro, you said it so well dear sister: "People's attitudes, lack of public awareness and sensitisation are the real barriers to the development of these children -- not their impairments."

As you know, children are wonderfully and beautifully children, even children with disabilities. They are amazingly resilient and willing and interested, etc. Again, as you say: "Children with disabilities can contribute productively to society and lead independent lives, if they are given the opportunity. Let's give them the opportunity."

I salute you and your powerful advocacy on their behalf.

BlueSky

Sahro's picture

Saluting you back!

Dearest BlueSky,
Thank you for your positive feedback.
How are you?

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

ikirimat's picture

Persons with Special Abilities

Thank you, your Op Ed holds water, they too need an education, an opportunity. Then can they be a valuable resource. Its been said that PWD are Persons with Special Abilities, thus Government and everyone else should invest in these people and then they can contribute to development.

Good opinion

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


Sahro's picture

Thanks

Ikirimat,
Asante sana.
Indeed PWD are Persons with Special Abilities.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Sahro, it is great to see this important topic, and you write so clearly that I can tell you have a strong understanding of how the educational system in Somalia is structured. And you convey very clearly about the outdated thinking that keeps children with special abilities secluded -- thereby limiting their special abilities and increasing their special needs.

I do believe when people get examples of what does work, even fathers can see the light and be motivated to cross those cultural barriers, so the children they love can have better lives. I am so encouraged by learning about dugsis, which may be a perfect way to meet the needs of the children early.

I wonder what free resources could be made available to the moalims?

Thank you for writing this excellent Op Ed about this important issue. Right on!

Anna

Speaking my Peace

Potter's picture

Thank You, Sahro!

Thank you so much for this compassionate oped. As a former so-clled "special education" teacher I can say that, sadly, solid educational practices for children with special needs are not always what they should be even in a country like the United States that requires that all certified teachers have some orientation on issues facing special needs students and much additional training for teachers who will serve these kids specifically. I greatly appreciated your observation of the need for empathetic listening to the needs and wishes of families and community members. That active listening and the dialog that leads to constructive planning is crucial!! Thank you for this articulate article!

Sahro's picture

Thank you Potter. Thank you

Thank you Potter. Thank you for sharing experiences on the topic, it was interesting and educational to read.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Greengirl's picture

Touched by your call

Your article is a great call to action.

I strongly believe, as you rightly pointed out, that children with disability can contribute productively to society and lead independent lives. As a matter of fact, they can contribute meaningfully and significantly. Denying this group of children the required educational support, will mean depriving them of a successful future. Of course, more often than note that is what happens in most societies.

I hope our leaders and policy makers will begin to think in the light of your recommendations, as it will surely give those affected a true sense of belonging across board (socially, economically, politically and culturally).

Thank you for thinking in this direction.

Sahro's picture

Thank you sister. Good to

Thank you sister. Good to hear from you.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Corine Milano's picture

Sahro, I just read your op-ed

Sahro, I just read your op-ed and wanted to thank you for your powerful perspective and clarion voice!

Sahro's picture

Thank you Corine!

Thanks alot Corine. Your words mean alot to me.
Sah

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at: https://www.facebook.com/301986015692/photos/a.10150304573125693.561701....
Founder

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

shazia @ shiree's picture

BANGLADESH: Finding Fatima

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

The Women of World Pulse LIVE: Meet Olanike

The Women of World Pulse LIVE: Meet Olanike

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative