It is back to school for Jama…

Thursday 18 January 2018

By Patrick Wekesa

Children learning at a school in Dadaab

Dadaab is a semi - arid town in Garissa County, located approximately 100 kilometres from the Kenya – Somalia border.  Most of the refugees living in Dadaab have fled from various forms of conflicts in their countries with approximately 90% of the entire population fleeing from civil war in Southern Somalia.  

Save the Children implements projects in three of the four refugee camps within Dadaab and is mandated to protect children from all forms of abuse and harm. Foster and kinship care within the refugee community is one of the community based interventions designed to provide family based alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children.

Jama (not his real name) is a 15 year old boy living in Dadaab Refugee Camp. He arrived in the camp with his parents when he was just two years old.  In the year 2004 Jama’s parents went back to Somalia and left him in the camp.  Jama was then placed under the care of Fatuma, a foster parent. Fatuma is one of the Save the Children foster parents who were well trained on parenting techniques to adequately care for unaccompanied minors.  In the year 2015 at the age of 13, Jama went back to Somalia in search of his parents and later returned to Dadaab after failing to find them. 

Terres des Hommes (TdH) which by then was the child protection agency working in Haghadera, Garissa placed him in in the care of Fatuma his foster mother.

Jama is a beneficiary of the Save the Children Child Protection project. He is currently enrolled in school and says he is happy to be learning. He wants to be a teacher when he grows up. 

Story in the beneficiaries’ own words

Fatuma, Jama’s foster parent says: “I was a neighbour to Jama’s family. Jama arrived in the camp with his parents but later they left him in the camp and went back to Somalia. I informed Save the Children and the child was put under my care as a foster parent.”

According to Save the Children Paediatric counsellor, Caren Tumwa, Jama had emotional imbalances that resulted from stigma and discrimination from his peers. Identifying suitable foster care for him was a challenge. Caren says: “It was difficult for Jama to adjust and settle in different foster care homes. The child missed his parents and could run away and live in the streets in Dadaab. The child’s case was discussed in an Inter-agency Best Interest Determination (BID) panel and it was agreed that Jama should be placed in Garissa Child Protection Rescue Centre.”

Jama says “I don’t know my parents. I was told that they were in Kismayu.  In 2015, I travelled to Somalia alone by road and did not tell my foster parents. I was looking for my parents but I could not find them.” Jama says he stayed in Somalia for several months, adding that while in Somalia he was recruited into an armed group but managed to escape and return to Dadaab alongside other boys.

According to Caren the paediatric counsellor, Jama’s frustration resulting from not finding his parents in Somalia may have caused him to engage in drug abuse and may have put him at risk of being recruited into armed groups. 

“The child was not adjusting well in different foster care arrangements. It was for this reason that Jama was admitted in a Child Protection Rescue Centre in Garissa - A government institution where children facing high protection risks are placed. The centre has a school and is well equipped with child friendly facilities. They also have qualified paediatric counsellors who provide psychosocial support for children with psychological concerns,” says Caren.

Zeitun, a psychosocial counsellor at Garissa Child Protection Centre says Jama was placed at the centre for six months and provided with counselling and moral support sessions which helped him to improve his behaviour. “Jama settled in and made good progress. He was appointed to be a class prefect in his class. He made many friends, became jovial and interacted well with other children at the centre unlike before when he was withdrawn and could hardly play with others. His class teacher mentioned that he is hard-working and eager to learn!” says Zeitun.

Six months later following recommendation from Sub County Children Officer, Jama was later taken back to his former foster care home in Haghadera camp. TdH the child protection agency in Haghadera camp visited him; Jama looked happy and said he felt safe in the camp. He is enrolled in school in the camp and currently in class two.

“I go to school every day. I know how to speak Swahili and I am grateful. I am happy living with my foster family and I want to study hard so that I can depend on myself when I grow up,” says Jama.

Project information

Through funding from UNICEF vulnerable children like Jama have been identified, provided with interventions through a case management approach including placing children in alternative care, BID panels to discuss best interest of the child, materials support; e.g. school materials to enable them continue with their education.  Save the Children has also strengthened relations with other agencies e.g TdH, IACPWG & SCCO who have been essential in providing different interventions to children even in situations where there is inter & intra camp movement of children which requires robust coordination in order to support a child holistically.

The project which started in November, 2016 aims to strengthen case management and support vulnerable children living in the refugee camps as well as address  protection concerns related to voluntary repatriation and relocation process. So far approximately 1000 children and 300 families have been supported through case management processes.