War orphans receive free schooling in Somalia

A teacher points to English words on a blackboard and is met with shouts by enthusiastic children in a crowded classroom in Biri Centre in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

These students are not like other students who go home to their families once school is out. The majority of these children remain at the centre where they eat and sleep.

The Biri Centre, like many schools in Mogadishu and around the country, has only a limited amount of resources so children have to make use of what little they have.

The centre was set up in 2010 by a small number of local charities aiming to provide aid and support for children. It currently accommodates around 800 students.

Many of these children have either been orphaned or lost contact with their parents and relatives during Somalia’s protracted civil war.

“My name is Fatima Sheikh Muhyadin and I am an orphan. I am cared for and get free education at the Biri Centre,” said one of the younger students.

The number of children who have lost either a parent of both has increased drastically and resulted in a generation of war orphans. Some live with relatives or have to care for themselves.

“Our main objective is to gather all these children together and give them schooling and care to build their future. If we don’t help these children have a chance in life we would be creating a huge burden for them and the state so we set up the centre to try and deal with the large number of children who have lost their parents,” said Nasra Abdulah Yasin, programme manager at the school.

The centre is funded only by donations received from the local community in Mogadishu but hopes to get international donors.

“We need help from Somalis and Muslims all over the world. We’re asking them to donate to the charity to help these children at the Biri Centre,” Yasin said.

In 2009, the United Nations children’s organization UNICEF estimated that there are over half a million orphans in Somalia.

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