Madina: a school close to home

End of the line

April 2014, Djibouti - The thermometer reads 44ºC when Madina steps out of the classroom. School has finished for the day for this 12-year old girl from Sankal, a remote village in Dikhil region by the Djibouti-Ethiopian border. It is 12.30am and the sun is scorching, but Madina spends a dozen minutes more chatting to her friends before going back to her toukol, the hut made from branches and covered in woven mats where she lives with her parents and six siblings.

The hottest months of the year are yet to come, and she wants to spend as much time as possible at school because this year might well be her last as a student.


A fragile dream

Madina loves to be sitting in a classroom every day and learning; and she would love to keep doing it until she can become a doctor. But she knows that hers is a fragile dream. Even though Sankal’s school is running double-shift classes, the three-room building is unable to accommodate all local school-age children. The director was forced to refuse new enrollments last year, so classes are running only from the 2nd to 5th grades.

Madina is now in the 5th grade, which means that to pursue her education she needs to go to Dikhil, the capital of the region. In other words, she needs to find a way to cover the sloped road of volcanic rocks and barren desert land that links Sankal and Dikhil, a road that takes one hour to cross on a jeep 4x4.

There is no public transport, and even if there were, her family would never allow her to travel, fearing that she may face danger or violence on the long way to school. The solution would be to move to Dikhil, but that is a luxury that her family cannot afford. Moreover, Madina is needed around the house. With a family of nine, there is always a lot of work to do. “I must help my mum fetch the water, prepare food and clean the dishes,” she explains.


A school close to home

September 2014. It’s five months later, and Sankal’s school has re-opened with two new classrooms built by the Ministry of Education with UNICEF support, so now classes can run from the 1st to 9th grades. The teachers’ room has also been rehabilitated to improve working conditions and a small solar power system is on the way. UNICEF has provided 75 tables and benches, along with school kits and the water supply system financed by UNICEF two years ago for the school and the village is working well.

There is still no guarantee that Madina will be able to become a doctor but now her school can run more classes, at the very least she gets to be a student for another year.

Thanks to UNICEF support to her school, Madina can stay in class for at least another year.