Once one of many Somali youths who grew up in a country plagued by decades of civil war, lawlessness and famine, Abdullah will now have an education thanks to Turkey's ambitious aid efforts in the East African nation.
“We won't forget the good deeds that Turkey has done for us,” Abdullah and his fellow Somalis said when meeting with their teachers and Turkish classmates for the first time this week.
Abdullah had once tried to continue his education in Somalia but encountered obstacles that students in developed nations could seldom imagine facing. Orphaned after his mother was killed in one of many street battles during Somalia's bitter civil war, Abdullah's daily preoccupation was once finding food and shelter rather than an education.
Deeply affected by the state of their country, Abdullah and other program participants now imagine becoming doctors, teachers or engineers who will one day work for the betterment of Somalia.
Turkey leads regional aid effort
Recent Turkish aid efforts have contrasted strongly with a sluggish international aid campaign, delivering food to millions and showcasing the country's desire to play an increasingly active role in regional issues.
In August UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres declared that the East African drought was the “worst humanitarian disaster” currently in the world and urged prompt action on the part of international relief organizations.
Turkey has been the most active participant in the relief efforts, donating TL 500 million in aid to Somalia and distributing food to 12 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The relief campaign seeks to lessen the suffering brought about by East Africa's driest summer in 60 years, a disaster in which tens of thousands of people are estimated to have starved to death in Somalia alone.
Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) Somalia Coordination Executive Mehmet Şamil Emin noted in an interview with the Anatolia news agency on Sunday that the campaign is now producing measurable results. “Especially thanks to the aid sent by Turkey to Somalia, there are no people who are starving to death in Mogadishu,” Emin noted, adding that continued aid will be necessary if suffering in more remote regions is to be quelled.
Turkey has also sought to develop Somalia's nearly nonexistent health infrastructure, donating seven ambulances for use in Mogadishu and pledging to assist supply-strapped hospitals.
New life in Turkey
The 49 students will attend various schools in Turkey -- 38 will be attending prep schools, while 11 students are slated to study at Fatih University. The students feel intense pressure to perform well in their classes, and Ahmed Muhammed (14) explains that “[we] will work hard for our families.”
The first class for many of the students will be Turkish. Başakşehir prep school director Alpaslan Külte explains that the students, who are just beginning to learn the basics, “will be guests in the homes of [Turkish] students at our school in order that they learn Turkish faster.” Kütle added that housing Somali students in Turkish households would also help the new arrivals feel at home in Turkey.
The program, which is funded by Turkey's Kimse Yok Mu foundation, currently provides education for 400 high school and 100 university students from Somalia.