Our program in Puntland, Somalia began with a chance meeting in Melbourne with Abdi Hassan, an academic at Victoria University. Within days, we signed the agreement with Mohamed Abdikadir Osman, Director General, Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Our co-ordinator was appointed, first Faiso Ali and then Burhan Jama. Normally we would work within a country; however, the civil conflict was high, with non-Somali and non-Muslims at risk and a number of abductions already in the news. Mulugeta Tsegaye, our regional co-ordinator for Ethiopia, stepped in. We ran a training program together in Ethiopia near the border of Somalia and Mulugeta subsequently travelled into Somalia to support the growing team.
The completion of the Fifty-sixth Collection was a complex task but with the enthusiasm of a Somalian in Melbourne and a government, passionate to be part of the program to benefit their children, the result was outstanding.
Two schools were directly involved. Darwiish Primary School in Hantiwadaag village in Garowe was the first school in the area and was named after the armed resistance to the colonial powers, led by the Muslim poet Salihiyya Sufi and militant leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan. The school is rich in the history of the resistance. The second school, New Waaberi Primary School, is located in Waberi village, east of Garowe Town.
We have learned so much about the Somalians through this program. They are clan-based Muslims with traditions and a cultural mix of Islamic, traditional and Western influences, with all food served halal.
In the Fifty-sixth Collection Muna Hassan Abdi from Darwiish Primary School gives a wonderful example of why all students deserve equal education. As she wrote in her story,
‘All of you are wrong except for this little girl’.