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Djibouti: Newsline

Parents' determination keeps girls in school

"All those who go to school raise your hand!" Ardo boasts a 100% enrolment rate.

Ardo, Djibouti, June 2005 – While in many of Djibouti’s rural villages poverty, lack of educational facilities and cultural constraints prevent girls from going to school, in others these obstacles have only reinforced the community’s determination to do what is best for its children.

Take Ardo for example. This isolated village is situated in the northern district of Tadjourah, up a steep, unpaved mountain road. The village school opened in 1989 and currently boasts 91 students, 48 of whom are girls. According to village chief Mohamed Daoud, all girls who are old enough to go to school do so, although that does not excuse them from their water-fetching duties. Mohamed attributes this 100 per cent enrolment rate to the realization that school is synonymous with development. “Women who go to school are more useful for their families. They fare better in the city and are better managers of their money than non-educated women,” he says.

© UNICEF/2005/Mekki
Fato: "School has changed my life."

The lack of a secondary school in Ardo has not discouraged parents from offering their daughters further education. Many parents send those of their children who have just finished primary school to stay with relatives in nearby Tadjourah so they can go on to secondary school. Those who don’t have this luxury don’t give in to fate either. A number of mothers have indeed had to leave the village and settled in Tadjourah to give their children a chance.

Fatma Daoud Omar’s sister did just that. A little over five years ago, when her eldest daughter finished primary school, she moved with her to Tadjourah, taking two of her younger children along so that they too can finish their education when the time comes. The youngest ones were left behind for Fatma to take care of. When her own children finish their primary school, Fatma, too, plans to move to Tadjourah. “Mothers are the ones who are really keen to send their children to school. Not even fathers are that keen,” she says.

Fato did not get that chance, but it was not the end of her world. At 18, she is already adept in business. Her years in primary school gave her the skills she now needs to work in the handicrafts sector in her village. She gets a commission on every product she sells and uses the money to buy goods from the city which she then sells in the village. “School has changed my life,” she says. “It taught me French and helped me develop a small business.” Fato’s ambitions do not end here. She hopes to acquire some basic health skills which she can use to offer hygiene advice to people in her village.



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