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Khalid’s Story: Helping Somali children chart a new future through the classroom

by Faith Kasina, Communications Officer, Somalia
In a striped red and black jersey and oversized blue jeans, Khalid sits beside his mother keenly listening as she instructs one of his sisters to complete her chores. 
They moved to Mandera town on the Kenya-Somalia border in 2008 after his parents and two sisters had to flee their Mogadishu home, having been caught in crossfire between government forces and militants. 
If you recognise Khalid’s face it is because you probably have seen him before. In 2009, Khalid featured on the Trócaire box, which was distributed to homes and schools across Ireland. 
The 2009 Lenten campaign highlighted the impact displacement has on people’s lives. Back then, Khalid and his family were living in a camp and had no access to education. 
Today, much has changed. 
lent 2009 kahlid trocaire somalia
Top: Khalid in 2009, photo by Kim Haughton. Bottom: Khalid at home in 2013 doing his school work, by Allan Gichigi
Their home’s interior is adorned with white charts plastered on the cement walls, showing Khalid’s reading timetable. Two subjects are scheduled to be read every weeknight between eight thirty and ten o’clock. School books are carefully placed by the meshed window, just above the purple sisal mat that Khalid uses as his study.
“I can’t imagine not going to school. What would I be doing instead?” he timidly asks, eyes fixed on his fidgety fingers. “I wake up each morning at four o’clock and read for two hours. After that, I quickly have my breakfast and go on to classes and I’m seated in class by seven o’clock.”
For the past four years, Trócaire has supported Khalid’s education through school fees, uniforms and stationery, which his 38-year-old mother, Falis Ibrahim, remains grateful for. Trócaire also supports the education of two of Khalid’s siblings. 
Living in a foreign country as a refugee, Falis has had difficulty in finding a job and mostly keeps busy with household chores and looking after her children. She worries about her inability to provide for her family. In Mogadishu, getting the children to school was almost a pipe dream as most schools had been turned into military bases. Khalid and his two sisters stayed at home, attending the neighbourhood’s religious classes. Falis had lost all hope of them getting a good education, but things are now looking up.
“I can’t measure my happiness when I see these children getting ready for school every morning,” she says. “They can write and speak much better than I do and that makes me very proud and thankful to all who have helped us this far. Khalid does exceptionally well in class and his teachers are very proud of him as well.”
Trócaire believes that education goes a long way in giving children brought up in difficult situations of war and struggle just like Khalid, a sense of normality while building opportunities for their futures.
“When I first met Khalid and his family in 2008, they had recently fled their home in Mogadishu,” says Rosemary Heenan, Trócaire’s Somalia Country Director. “They were living with several other families in a makeshift settlement and had no idea what the future would hold for them. I am so happy to see Khalid and his family with some degree of stability in their lives and to see Khalid doing so well in school. His teacher actually wrote to me last year to say that Khalid was top in the class.  I know, like all displaced people, going back home is what Khalid’s family really long for but meanwhile, it is good that Trócaire has in some small way contributed to them being safe and having an opportunity to get an education.”
He may appear shy and not very talkative, but Khalid’s mind soars with big dreams.
 “I want to be a surgeon so I can help people get well whenever they fall sick,” he says smiling at his mother and continues, “I promise to build you a house better than we have ever had. Just wait and see.”
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