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Posts Tagged ‘Ramadan’

My journey in back home to Somalia after almost two decades in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

MOGADISHU,  – My journey back to Somalia, my home country, was a dream and a choice I always wanted to achieve. I wanted to live on the soil of my ancestors away from the congested refugee ca mps of Dadaab and far from the tall buildings of Nairobi that hosted me temporarily and offered me an opportunity to be a citizen in a second home where I grew up and studied peacefully. 
After almost two decades in Kenya, I finally decided to return to the country of my origin after getting an exciting opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education in order to bring hope to the next generation and give back my skills and knowledge to my community.

I arrived at Aden Ade International Airport in Mogadishu on 26 July, a Friday morning. Almost all the passengers in the plane I was travelling in were Somalis, mostly returning from abroad. The small airport and its facilities were very busy and chaotic. It was far from international standards – with all the signs of the wreckage of war and unfinished reconstruction under way.

I was driven by a colleague in a taxi through many checkpoints with heavily armed guards comprised of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and Somali troops. We drove along the airport road, one of the city’s most dangerous, with heavily armed security personnel at frequent road blocks.

There was a high security alert. I was extremely scared and could not believe my eyes. I thought they were clearing up the aftermath of a fight in the city, but little did I know that this was the order of the day in Mogadishu.

That day was unique in particular because it was the 17th day of Ramadan, a day on which every year [militants] are known to carry out deadly attacks to commemorate one of the Islamic holy wars that took place on this day in history.

We turned onto another highway that was also very scary for newcomers like me, but normal for local residents. It is Maka Al-Mukarama road, known for nearly non-stop hooting vehicles – mainly small shuttle buses with overloaded passengers, some hanging onto the doors and windows while the conductor clings to the rear side as he shouts for more passengers.

“Stay calm, this is normal”

This road is also one of the busiest roads in Mogadishu; it directly connects State House and the airport. The traffic is hectic and it is controlled by traffic police, military and administration police. Gunshots, I was told, are used as “traffic lights” to disperse jams and as warning shots.

Surprised at my anxiety and restlessness, the driver said: “My friend, stay calm, this is normal.” I smiled to respond positively but did not say a word. I was speechless until we reached Taleh residential area.

This area was relatively calm. Residents were busy with their daily activities during the Ramadan fast.

I stayed indoors on advice from family and friends in Kenya. I was told to minimize my movement in the city and avoid crowded areas. However, I felt very insecure even inside my room because I was traumatized by the deafening sound of gunshots outside. I hear gunshots all day, like I hear the call to prayer, and it makes me sick.

I could not understand why there are all these gunshots in the streets. Then I recall the guys I saw along the airport road and the other young men in government uniforms hanging onto the sides of vehicles speeding up Maka Al Mukarama road all with firearms pointing at the pedestrians and other passing vehicles, their fingers on the trigger.

The following day was another unpleasant experience. The Turkish embassy was attacked. I could hear the blast not far from where I was staying. The thought of going back to Kenya came to my mind but it eventually faded away later that night when the commotion ended and I saw the story on TV.

Meanwhile, the locals are fully engaged in their day-to-day activities, indifferent to what is happening around them. Besides the gunshots, explosions and chaos, there are parallel constructions, business transactions and celebrations on the eve of the Eid festival after Ramadan.

Toy guns

One of the most striking things I saw at this time were all types of big toy guns displayed in the shops for children to play with during the Eid celebrations [marking the end of Ramadan]. On the actual Eid day, I saw children smartly dressed happily enjoying the day but with huge toy guns hanging on their shoulders, shooting one another typically as though they were on a battlefield. When you see the toy guns you will never understand… I was really disappointed how these innocent children are being brought up with such destructive weapons.

Is it because their parents are ignorant? What message does it portray? How will the fresh minds of these children be affected? What does it symbolize? I think we lost two generations already and the third one is growing in a world of lawlessness and ignorance. We have to do something about this and educate today’s parents and youth to save Somalia’s next generations.

Reporting for work

I reported to work the following week. I met new friends. The environment, the people and the job were all fresh and awesome. I felt very fortunate when I sat at a desk where the flag of Somalia flies right beside the computer, a reminder of my identity.

I was motivated to be part of a young, passionate team mostly from the diaspora who came to work with the Ministry of Education. We are specifically designated to work on a unique programme that was independently run by the Ministry, unlike other partner-led projects.

This was a project dubbed “Aada Dugsiyada” (Go to School Initiative) aimed at getting one million children into free and quality public schools by 2016. All the schools in the country are privately run so the challenge of starting the first free public schools after more than two decades of war lay ahead of us.

However, the feedback from all the people – including stakeholders, donors, local media and authorities – is overwhelmingly positive.

Running a whole government ministry that has not been functioning for over 20 years is a nightmare, and requires huge support both financially and in terms of dedicated professional human resources.

Standing firm

I did not understand what “failed state” really meant until I reached Mogadishu. To be honest, I only thought the term was used just to describe how much our country was damaged, but the true picture dawned on me when I explored the capital, where all government institutions are managed.

All the concerted efforts that were made to rebuild this country were focused on primarily handling the security, which still remains a stumbling block, thus leaving the gap for all other vital areas that a fully functioning nation with its dynamic society needs.

But, interestingly, how do you describe those people who have been courageously living in the midst of all these clashes, the devastation, droughts, famine and atrocious terror situations for decades and counting – yet have been standing firm to keep going with privately run business institutions, booming markets, private schools, social and economic development, while those in diaspora have been supporting them financially doing odd jobs in odd hours and facing the challenge of detention, discrimination and death for the same course.

I was really moved when I saw how the old Somali currency is being utilized in Mogadishu. In any business transaction, no one rejects the torn, ragged and spoilt ones because they fully know that there is no replacement or functioning central bank that regulates the money, so they are happy to keep going with what they have and make their lives easy.

I am, therefore, pleased to say that the Somali community to which I belong is exceptionally resilient, productive, hardworking, courageous, intelligent and determined. These are people who can reach beyond measurable heights in the 21st century if only our own political leaders and their foreign stakeholders act honestly in all their endeavours to stabilize Somalia for a better tomorrow.

mh/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Thai teachers insecurity

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

Thai soldier on guard at an elementary school

BANGKOK, – Stronger security is needed for teachers in government schools in Thailand’s deep south, where an ongoing insurgency by Muslim separatist groups has left more than 150 teachers dead since 2004, say officials.

“The best thing we need to do for teachers and workers in the education field is to strengthen security measures,” Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang told IRIN.

His comments come less than a week after a roadside bomb exploded in Chanae District in southern Narathiwat Province, killing two female teachers and seriously wounding one other, in what was described by local media as “the worst day for teachers for months”.

The 24 July attack – for which no party has claimed responsibility – highlights the fragmented nature of the conflict in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat along the border with Malaysia.

According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), since 2004 more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives in the violence which successive governments, beginning with that of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-2006), have been unable to control.

Barisan Revolusi Nasional
Labelled by the government as one of the southern conflict’s main insurgency groups, analysts have characterized Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) as a “central command of autonomous cells” and a “hybrid clandestine organization” whose members are mostly of Malay ethnicity, as opposed to Thai, Chinese-Thai and other local non-Muslims.Based on an interview with a former insurgent leader, International Crisis Group reported that most insurgents do not identify with BRN but, rather, refer to themselves as fighters engaged in a national liberation war for an independent Islamic state.

Despite recent peace talks between the government and separatists (described by ICG as “a formless movement comprised of autonomous cells operating within a central command”) held in Malaysia aimed at reducing violence during Ramadan, insurgent attacks have increased, according to local media.

Since the peace talks began on 28 February between Thai officials and members of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) militant group, reported to be one of the main insurgency groups, nearly 50 people have been killed and close to 80 injured.

“It’s difficult [for the children] to catch up with all the lost time due to school closures,” said Boonsom Thongsriprai, chairman of the Confederation of Teachers of the Three Southern Border Provinces.

Since January 2004, ethnic Malay Muslim separatist insurgents have been implicated in the deaths of close to 160 teachers and education personnel from government-run schools, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a 2012 report, with teachers and schools (along with soldiers) routinely singled out for attack as representatives of the Thai state.

On 11 December 2012 ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents entered a school in Pattani Province at lunch hour and summarily executed two ethnic Thai Buddhist teachers.

Some 1,200 government-run schools serving more than 200,000 schoolchildren in four provinces were closed for two days.

On 23 January 2013, Chan Tree, a Muslim third grade teacher, had just begun mid-day prayers in the canteen at the Ban Tanyong school in Narathiwat Province with a room of elementary students when two armed men walked in and shot him. One of the students yelled out: “They’re going to shoot you, teacher Chan Tree”, before the men opened fire.

“Some of the teachers quit and some of them transferred. About five or six teachers have transferred to other schools,” Yai Nong Tohleh, another instructor, said afterwards.
Dozens of primary and secondary schools in Narathiwat and Pattani provinces closed down in the weeks that followed the January attack.

High teacher turnover 

One result of the attacks has been teachers leaving their jobs, giving administrators the added difficulty of attracting qualified teachers to replace them, authorities say.

Education has taken a hit in Thailand’s southern conflict

Starting salaries for teachers are about US$400 per month, with additional “danger pay” of roughly $80 per month. The average pay nationwide in this upper middle-income country is nearly $700; salaries lag in the deep south.

“They fear that if they withdraw or transfer themselves out of the south there won’t be sufficient teachers to provide quality education to children,” Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for HRW in Thailand, explained.

“That is the incentive for both the Buddhist Thai and Malay Muslim teachers to continue working. That shows the commitment of those teachers who want to provide education to the children even though some of them have been at schools that have been attacked so many times before,” he added.

Meanwhile, many positions continue to be filled locally – with those recruited on temporary contracts and receiving less pay and benefits.

“Right now many of the staff aren’t officially appointed or registered because they aren’t fully qualified for the position but the government is working on a plan to register many of the new replacements so that they can [receive] better payment,” said Boonsom Thongsriprai.

The informal ceasefire agreed originally by the Thai government and the BRN to coincide with Ramadan ends after 8 August.

ss/ds/pt source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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