“One morning while I was teaching my class some men came and destroyed everything.
They said that I had to stop teaching or that they would kill me.
These people don’t like anyone they think is a leader. If they thought that you may challenge them or tell the people not to do what they say then they will kill you. There would be no hesitation.
As a teacher I was singled out. I took their threat very seriously.
I left that place straight away. I was scared.”
As Ismael* recounts his last day in his village it is hard not to be impressed by how calm he is. Leaning forward in his chair, he stares straight ahead; not once does his voice falter.
He is one of those people you can tell instantly is a great teacher: composed, confident and extremely passionate about the power of education. He is evidently a role model for the children he now teaches at this refugee camp, across the border in Ethiopia.
Understanding and support
It has been two years since he was forced to flee his village but the experience clearly hasn’t put him off doing what he loves:
“I think I always wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to help my community and help to develop the next generation. Now I am the Volunteer Headmaster at this school and what we are doing here is helping.
The children have many challenges. Many have come from areas where there has been fighting. Some have seen horrible things.
Sometimes their bodies will be in the class but their minds will be somewhere else.
Quite a few of our students have lost either one or both of their parents. Some have no one to stay with them and take care of them.
But these children are the ones who need this school most. We can offer them the support they need.
Many have never been to school or have missed out on schooling for a year at a time. Your education programme will allow them to catch up.
This school is an opportunity for them and one day, when it is safe, they will go back and be ambassadors for education. They will be role models for everyone.”
I know that the students in Ishmal’s care will go far. Because as ambassadors for education go, you would struggle to find a stronger example than Ishmal himself.
*Name changed to protect identity
This is the second in a series of posts from the Ethiopia/Somalia border. Read the first 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.