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Across the Somalia Border: Lost for words in Dollo Ado

In Dollo Ado they have their own way of telling the time. Getachew (one of our Alternative Basic Education Officers) tells us that while here we should get used to 6am being referred to as 0 o’clock and 6pm as 12. Needless to say there are several mix-ups in the following days concerning arranged meeting times!

It has now just turned 1 (that’s 7am if my explanation above was not very clear) and we are sitting in the home of the Kalif family, who came to Ethiopia from Somalia two years ago to escape the conflict that was tearing their village apart.

Sixteen and head of the family

Amina Kalif Aden, 11

In charge is Ismail, who at just 16 years old is both the head of the family and wise beyond his years.

Sitting next to him are his younger brother Abdi Asis (14) and sister Amina (11). Both of them are enrolled on our Alternative Basic Education programme, which gives refugee children who have missed out on years of education the chance to catch up via an accelerated curriculum.

We are chatting away for about half an hour when I notice a small shelf on the far wall. On it is placed an A4-sized paper bag. It is the only object on the shelf, and looking around it is the only thing that clearly has its own place in this single-roomed home.

‘These are my school books’

Amina with her books

Seeing me looking at the shelf, Amina quietly stands and collects the paper bag. Pulling out its contents she reveals two text books and a well-worn notepad.to leave they would be the first things I would pick up.

“These are my school books,” she tells me. “I don’t want them to be damaged or spoilt. They are very precious to me.”

Very carefully she then returns them to the bag and places it back on the shelf. “After my clothes they are my most important possession. If I had ”

This is just one of the many moments on this trip where a young child has struck me dumb.

In fact, time and time again the children I have spoken to here in Dollo Ado have demonstrated an understanding of the power of education that would have shamed my adolescent self.

As Amina retakes her seat she tells me what education means to her:

“Education can make a dark place become brighter in the future. I know this is true. We are happy here and because of education we will have a better life now.”

And once again I am lost for words…

This is the third in a series of posts from the Ethiopia/Somalia border: read the first blog post here and the second blog post here.


Mark Kaye, Humanitarian Communications ERP, and Jonathan Hyams, Humanitarian Film & Photo ERP, were in Dollo Ado to report on Save the Children’s latest Education in Emergencies project, funded by the European Union’s Children of Peace Initiative, which will see over 5,400 children gain access to basic education, many for the first time. Ultimately, the project will help them to begin to recover from the effects of conflict.

As part of the initiative Save the Children are also working jointly with the Norwegian Refugee Council, who will help over 9,000 children affected by conflict access school in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
For more information on the European Union’s Children of Peace Initiative please click here.

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