Hibo: a birth certificate and a school bag

Big dreams

Mar 2015, Djibouti - Hibo holds her flower-patterned schoolbag very tight to her chest, like a precious treasure – and, for her, it really is. This is the first year in which this 10-year old girl living in Ali-Sabieh, a region in southern Djibouti, has had the chance to go to school. No one else in her family ever has – although she is the second youngest out of seven brothers and sisters.

This is why Hibo wants to become a teacher when she grows up. “Now I am here… so later I want others to be here as well. I want them to learn as I am learning”, she explains with earnest black eyes.


A paper to access school

In Djibouti, one of every three children is not enrolled at school. Children with disabilities, nomads and girls, particularly those from the poorest households, are the most likely to be excluded. For Hibo, the chances were even grimmer as she had no birth certificate. In Djibouti, this is a condition for registering in the national exams and overcrowded schools often deny access to those who cannot meet this criterion.

Hibo was lucky. Her parents heard about the LEC centre and sent her there. These UNICEF supported centres, run by the Écoles Catholiques de la Diocese de Djibouti, serve children who, for one reason or another, are left out of the normal school system. Every year, UNICEF provides school materials for all students and teachers, as well as ICT equipment. Hibo is not only learning how to read, write and count, but she has also been helped to get a birth certificate, which will allow her to join the normal school system later on.


Moving closer to the sea

In order to pursue her dream of becoming a primary school teacher, Hibo needs to fulfill another dream: moving to Djibouti city, where the Training Centre for Basic School Teachers is located – the only in-country institution providing this sort of training. But this is a flimsy hope for now, given her family’s difficult economic situation.

Hibo’s family came from Ethiopia to Djibouti with no papers, and has remained like that for years. Her father got a job as a guard at the telecommunications site on the top of Ali-Sabieh Hill, and the two oldest brothers left for Djibouti city to search for work, which they have not found yet.

Now Hibo dreams of going to the capital, “because the sea is there”. Hibo has never seen the sea, but she knows everything she needs to know about it: “It has fishes.” This means that they are cheaper, and therefore affordable.

Fish would be a luxurious addition to the rice that forms the core of the famliy’s diet, and which Hibo helps her mother prepare. “We have to mix onions, oil, garlic, water, rice… and then some milk or sauce”, she explains. “Fish would give us protein”, she adds, sharing with us what she has learned at school.

Hibo untightens her arms to get enough room to take the red ruled notebook out of her schoolbag. Both sides of her hands are adorned with drawings she made using a blue pen. With pride, Hibo writes down her name in capital letters. Today, before doing any of her daily housework, she will do her homework.

Part of this housework is to carry a five-liter jerry can to nearest source of water and collect what the family needs for the day. So Hibo is lucky that a neighbor has access to water, which cuts down the distance she needs to carry her heavy load.  But if she could have her third dream, a bicycle, it would surely be easier for her and she’d have more time to study.

Hibo's biggest dream is to keep studying until she can become a teacher