In Somalia a whole generation grew up without education
The War Generation
“This generation hasn’t seen anything other than conflict and violence,” tells Abdikadir Salad, a civil society activist involved in advocating children’s rights.
“They have been on the run all their lives, moving from one place to another with little possibility of receiving an education,” Salad further explains. Over the twenty years most of the Somali people were recruited into the fighting groups. Another large proportion of young people also undertook the very dangerous sea voyage to the Gulf Arab states and Europe as a route out of their troubled land.
Abdullahi Abdi, 24, was only four year old when Somalia’s central government led by military ruler Mohamed SiadBarre was ousted in 1991. He regretfully remembers only bad things about his country; his childhood memories are about fleeing from violence.
“I do remember my mother holding my hand while she and my father carried other children on their backs,” explains Abdullahi. “I still hear the sound of fire, 20 years on.”
Abdullahi was driving me for two weeks while I worked in the Mudug region of Somalia, investigating the lucrative business of piracy that has become so rife in the south of the country. He took me from Galkacyo to Hobyo and we travelled more than 200 kilometres together. He is a good joker and story teller, but his life is filled with the pain of the war in his country. He is the oldest man of a family of nine - four boys and five girls. Abdullahi’s father was killed in clan fighting in the region in 2002, and since then his family has depended solely on him.
“It is hard to get a job,” Abdullahi tells me. "Even being a conduct you need to have a relationship with the owner.” After the death of his father he became an assistant to a trucker, but without an education it took him years to get a reliable job. He learned driving and repairing while he was working with the truck in the garage. Almost five years later he was hired as a driver of a luxury Land cruiser in Galkacyo, the place we first met. He is a man who struggled to develop his life while growing up in one of the earth’s most dangerous places.
He didn’t go to school and has no work experience outside of driving and mechanics. “When we moved to Mogadishu in 1987, my father told me that he would take me to school in the city,” Abdullahi remembers. Unfortunately the war caught him at the time he was supposed to go to the school and all the education institutions suddenly became battlefields.
“Someone who is dying for thirst cannot think about a book and a pen,” says Abdullahi, as he outlines the fate of his generation. “Firstly you need to think of water. Then comes food, leaving education in third place. Even now I don’t have all the essential items for life.”
Abdikadir Salad worries the country’s next generation will suffer a similar plight if the conflict is not soon resolved. "We need to find a solution. But without political will on an international level to improve the situation, another generation will remain at risk."
The local civil society groups are working hard to help the upcoming generation so as to save them from the war. However the progress is foiled by the restricted access to the whole population. The country is divided into small administrations, with one being run by the Al-Qaeda inspired group of Al-Shabaab.
Abdullahi’s frustration and trauma about the war is shared by millions of Somali youths who were caught up in war while they were of school age. Their lives have been wasted by violence and their chances stolen by warlords. Within the unfortunate state of Somalia, this is described as the lost generation.