GOOBJOOG NEWS|HARARDHERE: When the Somali National Army backed by allied clan militia captured the historic port city of Harardhere in central Somalia in mid-January this year, the city looked desolate and empty.
Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur told the media that Al-Shabaab had displaced thousands of residents from the city before they fled as the allied forces headed to the town. By ’emptying’ the city, Al-Shabaab intended to make it ungovernable and difficult to re-establish local administrations and rebuild lives.
But undeterred, residents trooped back as government forces took charge and local governance was re-established. Fast forward to September 2, school-going children who had been denied the opportunity to study or forced into Al-Shabaab system of education had a reason to smile.
Schools across the city reopened and children thronged into classes albeit in their dilapidated state. Interior Minister Ahmed Fiqi led several other government officials in witnessing the reopening of the schools. According to Galmudug State Ministry of Education, 110 students reported to schools within the town as the new academic year began.
One of the school headmasters who spoke to Goobjoog News said the reopening of the schools was a major relief for students, parents and teachers but added there were still shortages.
“We don’t have enough boards, books and other basic education equipment. We are requesting any kind of assistance to sustain the teaching,” the head teacher said.
Government forces captured Harardhere and nearby Gal’ad town in January 2023. Harardhere was a major hub for pirates during the height of piracy in Somalia between 2008 and 2012. Thereafter, Al-Shabaab took control and had been using it as a transport hub and revenue collection base.
Many children who were in school were forced to drop out as boys were forcefully recruited into Al-Shabaab. The militant group imposed its rule and system of education which seeks to indoctrinate students into extremism.
The return to school for children in Harardhere is a ray of hope for many children in Somalia who have been denied their right to education by Al-Shabaab. The continuing operations are expected to yield more hope as the government establishes its presence in territories that have been under Al-Shabaab control.