Fifteen year old Abdullahi sits eagerly in his electronic repair vocational skills class at the Galckayo vocational training center in Puntland. One cannot tell that he is deaf. Abdullahi's formal education had been cut short due to lack of qualified specialized teachers and non-existent special needs education policies. But last year, Abdullah’s father learned of the free vocational skill training being offered by the Durable Solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Returnees in Somalia (DSIRS) project in the IDPs camps in Galckayo. His father had hope, having witnessed first-hand his son's aptitude for learning, as he had often helped him around his shop.
“I was reluctant at first, as I was afraid he would be let down once more, but the project staff assured me that Abdullahi would receive the attention and support that will enable him to learn and use the skills he is taught,” Abdullahi’s father narrated. Abdullahi quickly enrolled and was well received by his classmates, who were mindful of his hearing impairment and were open to the visual aids used by teachers and the time they dedicated to Abdullahi.
Sensory impaired (hearing) children are affected by downturn and discrimination from accessing education opportunities in a community unaware of the rights of special needs children. “Every child has different learning capabilities, styles and pace. Given the chance, exceptional children are capable of learning and succeeding in life” Abdullahi’s teachers say, acknowledging his willingness to learn and his ability to quickly grasp new concepts.
Abdullahi communicates through writing and wrote: ‘my name is Abdullahi Ahmed Tahlil, I am 15 years old and the 2nd born of twelve siblings (6 girls and 6 boys), and I live with my family in Galckayo. Before the commencement of the training course, I did not have hope in being in a classroom, but now I sit with other students and learn just like them even though I am different. I am happy I can learn and one day I will open a repair shop and support my family.’
There are many barriers to education that a child can face, this is more so for children with special needs who are unable to achieve their goals due to obstacles not only from the education system but their community and family who have very little faith in their abilities. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa funds the Durable Solutions for IDPs and Returnees in Somalia (DSIRS) project which is part of the €50 million RE-INTEG Programme. The project contributes to the sustainable integration of IDPs, returnees and refugees in Somalia, as well as host community members, like Abdullahi, in order to improve access to inclusive basic quality services for at risk youth.