When COVID- 19 takes away the only safe space
Shamarke and Zakariye respectively 14 and 13 years old, used to live on the streets of Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. Like many other children, they were pushed on the street by poverty and family breakdowns. “I left my parents when I was so young. I do not know the whereabouts of my family” said Shamarke.
COVID-19 has inflicted deep and widespread impacts on the Somali economy, endangering the livelihoods of many families and putting even more children at risk of ending up on the street.
In parallel to that, school-closures have had a huge impact on children in Somalia. Even before COVID-19, it was estimated that of the 4.5 million school-aged children, only 1.5 million children were in school, leaving 3 million school-aged children out of school.
The prolonged school closures have exposed many more children to abuse and exploitation, taking away what was for many the only safe space. “Before I used to live with street children. Most of them used to have big knives. I was taken out of these gangs. Now I live in a good place. I urge other street children to go back to school.” Shamarke said.
The school was indeed instrumental in getting Shamarke and Zakariye off the streets. Thanks to Kadare Street Children Re-integration Centre, a member of the Somalia Coalition for Education For All (EFASOM), they were able to resume their education in December 2020.
Zakariye: “I used to live as a street child at Ceelgaab area of Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu. I was addicted to drugs. Now I am healthy and studying. I have a place to sleep and food to eat. In the future, I hope to be a school teacher”.