Mogadishu — Yusuf Bilow Isaq, a 41-year-old toothbrush salesman at the K5 intersection in Mogadishu, said he cannot afford to spend money on education when his family is struggling.
"My eldest child has not been to school in his 15 years and his younger siblings are even worse off because there are no free schools," he told Sabahi. "I cannot afford school fees because the most I make in a day is 100 shillings, which cannot cover more than the bare necessities of the family."
Even though private schools helped fill the education vacuum after the collapse of the central government in 1991, they have not been financially accessible to many families like Isaq's. As a result, many children in the Somali capital have to forgo getting an education.
"Whenever you are in Mogadishu, you see hundreds of children on the streets," Isaq said. "They are not in school because their families cannot afford school fees that cost as much as $10 a month. If a family has five or six children and pays for one child to go to school, the rest of the children have to stay at home."
Mohamed Yaqub is a 45-year-old father of seven in Mogadishu. He told Sabahi he provides for his family as a porter, and is equipped with a handcart donated by a non-profit agency.
Yaqub said he would love to educate his children, but none of them goes to school because he cannot afford the fees.
"School owners are trying to make money from their schools and we cannot afford the fees," he told Sabahi. "Our children are without education because whatever we make in a day cannot cover both education and the other needs of the family."
Government pledges to restore education sector
Abukar Ismail, 50, has been a teacher for 15 years and now works at the Mamur School in Waberi district. He said the government should try to improve the state of education and restore educational services with equal access for all Somalis.
"Families living in poverty have become a forgotten part of our society because they do not have advocates to work on their behalf to ameliorate their children's lack of education," he told Sabahi.
Ismail said Somali families' inability to send their children to school due to financial constraints is the biggest social problem in Somalia.
Non-profit agencies operate a few schools that offer free education to students, but their facilities fall well short of what is needed in the country, said Abdinasir Yusuf, a 46-year-old educator at the Mohamud Harbi School in Hamar Jajab.
Yusuf said the problem of access to education for poor people can be addressed by the establishment of a government capable of restoring the required educational services.
Mohamed Adan, an official at the Ministry of Education, said the government is aware of the problem of access to education facing children from families living in poverty, and programmes are under way to address the issue.
Adan said the ministry recently re-opened the July 1st School in Howlwadaag. The school educates about 300 students, most of whom are orphans or children whose parents cannot afford tuition. The school currently offers primary education, with plans to expand into middle and high school.
"The school is managed by the Turkish government," Adan told Sabahi. "Everyone can bring children to attend the school without conditions placed on their access to education."