It is a very short drive from the Save the Children Field Base to the UNHCR Registration Centre in Dollo Ado town, Ethiopia. As we get closer, the driver points to the horizon and tells me that the trees I can see are across the border in Somalia. It can’t be further than 500m away.
I can’t help but notice the extensive fencing and barbed wire that surrounds the Registration Centre. It’s an intimidating sight for a grown a man, never mind the many unaccompanied children, alone and far from home, who end up here.
Sitting in the middle of the compound are today’s arrivals. They are almost all women and children and they have travelled, often on foot, from Somalia to escape the ongoing conflict. Some have relatives already living in the refugee camps.
I meet Farhan, a shy 11-year-old boy who has crossed the border with his mother, two younger brothers and sister (aged five, four and one and a half). He is going to join his father in one of Dollo Ado’s 5 refugee camps. When I ask him where his mother is he tells me that she has already gone back to Somalia.
‘My mother told me before we left that she was taking us to our father. He lives in Hilaweyn refugee camp with his other wife. They moved here 7 months ago because of the problems in Somalia. I don’t know why we have come now, only that my mother has decided.
Back in Somalia I would spend all day looking after my younger brothers and sister. They are my responsibility. Because I was always looking after them, I never got to play or learn.
Where I’m from there is no school. I talked to my father about school and he promised me I could go. But then he left and broke his promise.
There is nothing there. No food, no security, no education. Now I’m here I hope to learn. I will go to school. I will work hard and learn and then I will get all of the benefits.
I want to learn Somali, English, Amharic and maths. If I am good at maths I will be able to calculate everything and with languages I will be able to talk to everyone– it will make me very good at business.
My brothers and sisters are younger but I want them to learn as well. When they go to school I will help them. Right now I can’t teach them anything, but when I learn I will.
[One of Save the Children’s Child Protection staff explains to Farhan that his younger brothers and sister will be enrolled in Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development programme, which offers a safe space for pre-school children to play and learn during the day.]
I am very happy, because this will give me a good chance to learn. I will be free now to go to school. I think all Somali children should learn.’
I ask Farhan if he has any questions for me.
“I have just one question: I ask for education. Nothing else.”
Mark Kaye, Humanitarian Communications ERP, and Jonathan Hyams, Humanitarian Film & Photo ERP, are 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.