In a historic moment, the Somali National Army, supported by allied clan militia, seized control of the renowned port city of Harardhere in central Somalia.
The aftermath revealed a desolate and empty landscape, as Al-Shabaab, the militant group, had forcefully displaced thousands of residents prior to their retreat, aiming to render the city ungovernable and impede the restoration of local administration and livelihoods.
The indomitable spirit of the residents prevailed as government forces assumed responsibility and reinstated local governance. Fast forward to September 2, and a glimmer of joy illuminated the faces of school-going children who had long been deprived of education or subjected to Al-Shabaab’s indoctrination system.
Despite the dilapidated state of the schools, their doors swung open once again, welcoming children who eagerly filled the classrooms. Leading the way, Interior Minister Ahmed Fiqi, accompanied by several government officials, witnessed the momentous reopening of the schools.
The Galmudug State Ministry of Education reported that 110 students eagerly returned to their studies as the new academic year commenced.
For students, parents, and teachers, the reopening of schools in Harardhere brought immense relief. However, challenges persist. One headmaster, in an interview, expressed gratitude for the reopening but emphasized the shortage of essential educational resources such as boards, books, and basic equipment. The head teacher appealed for any form of assistance to sustain the teaching efforts.
Harardhere, once a bustling hub for pirates during the height of piracy in Somalia between 2008 and 2012, fell under the control of Al-Shabaab thereafter.
The militant group transformed the city into a transport hub and a base for revenue collection. Countless children, who were once enrolled in school, were compelled to abandon their education as young boys were forcibly conscripted into the ranks of Al-Shabaab. The Al-Shabaab group imposed its rule and propagated an education system aimed at indoctrinating students into Alshabaab.
The resurgence of schools in Harardhere represents a ray of hope not only for the children of the city but for all the children throughout Somalia who have been denied their fundamental right to education by Al-Shabaab.
As the government’s operations forge ahead, gradually reclaiming territories from the group, further hope is anticipated. The establishment of government presence in areas previously controlled by Al-Shabaab will pave the way for continued progress and the restoration of stability.