Marian (left) enjoys her morning porridge, one of the two daily meals that children at Fiqi Adan School receive. Copyright: WFP/Susannah Nicol
The droughts have been harsh for years and this left the family no choice but to change their lifestyle and abandon their pastoralist ways. For two children in Fiqi Adan Village, school means much more than receiving an education.
When I arrive at the school in the remote Somaliland village of Fiqi Adan, it’s time for breakfast. Against a backdrop of dusty hills and scrublike bushes, a young boy and girl are helping to hand out stainless steel dishes of porridge to other pupils sheltering from the sun under a corrugated iron roof.
It turns out the two are brother, Farhan, and sister, Marian, and being only a year apart in age, they are in the same class which teaches both grades 7 and 8.
Concentration is key
Once the meal is finished, the children file back into the classroom. Farhan tells me his ambition is to become a doctor and the food he eats gives him the energy to listen and learn better. The lesson today is in Somali, as opposed to English which is also taught, so I can’t follow it but the classmates are all avidly writing in their text books, copying what the teacher is chalking onto the blackboard.
When I get a chance, I speak to Farhan and Marian about their school and their life. Their family moved to Fiqi Adan from the hills beyond, back in 2009. Their nomadic lifestyle succumbed to persistent drought. After the death of 19 of their 25 goats and sheep, they could no longer make ends meet.
So the family upped sticks and moved to Fiqi Adan. Although their father is disabled, their mother has been able to find work in the school, preparing meals for the children. But even in the village, they can’t escape the grip of drought.
“This is a pastoralist area and since there’s been less rain, it’s drier”, explains Marian, “so I have to go further to the wells. It takes three to four hours because water is scarce. We’re still affected by the numbers of animals dying. There’s no pasture and no milk to drink.”
Farhan adds that if they did not get the food at school, things would be even tougher back at home.