My name is Fartun Abbas, Somali by nationality. I was born in 1990 in Mugdisho, Somalia (a war torn country). By the time, I was born war was reigned the country. Members of my family were killed and our properties were looted in 1992. I came to Kenya in 1997 as an illiterate young girl with my grandmother in Mandera (Northeastern part of Kenya) for safety, and later I moved to the other parts. I have acquired all my education in Kenya.
After living in Nairobi for two years, I was finally enrolled in a public primary in the year 2006. Before that, I built my English language skills by learning read and write for two years and I was qualified for class six. Upon my final year, I could not get index number- a number given students in order to do their final exam- because I did not have money to pay. The school authority said the students’ number had to reduce, since there were many, and I was expelled. Nine month later, I did my final exam in an Adult institution and got Kenya Certificate Primary Education. I was very happy, when I got a chance to go to high school in Nairobi in 2010. Unfortunately, because of my financial instability, I was expelled from the school after I failed to pay the school fee for two consecutive terms; as a result, I had to read the books while I was at home. In the year 2011, I came to Kakuma refugee camp with my family from Nairobi where I got the opportunity to go back to high school and continue with my education. Studying in the camp was not easy and I faced many challenges to the journey of my educational goals but I managed to finish high school and get a job as an interpreter for UNHCR.
I would like to share some of the challenges as well as opportunities for studying at Kakuma Refugee camp: At first, it was hard to adjust to the situation of living at the camp; poor shelter and lack of enough food to eat. In addition, the weather – it’s about 40 degrees Celsius – made it hard to concentrate in my studies. Moreover, the timing system of school was quite abnormal by the time I was enrolled. The partial time- half a day at school - was inappropriate because the teachers could not finish the syllabus with us on time. Then they introduced full time studies- classes went from eight morning to four evening by the time I was in form three that benefited all of students who were willing to learn, including me, because I was so excited to remain in school and learn.
Unfortunately, I had to leave school early, because I am a girl. Hence, most of my time was limited doing home activities; taking care of my siblings, fetch water or collecting our ration from the food distribution center and cooking. Another challenge to my learning was, not being well nourished. The school did not provide lunch; learning on an empty stomach makes it hard to do a lot in classes after noon. Subsequently, I had to cross a long distances; I decided to relocate myself and moved close to school. Nevertheless, neither our home nor school had electricity and so, I had difficulty to study at night or do my school homework when I had the time to study. And because of insecurity in the camp I could not plan to move where there was a light. The school has no laboratory room where we could do our science practical; because of this, I performed poorly and had to drop my favorite subject, physics.
In addition, there is the problem of too many students for such a few teachers. Finally, there was a shortage of supplies, I, like other students did not have enough notebooks to write or textbooks to read, and hardly could I get these resources from my parents or friends. Even though, we had desks in school, they were not enough, and had to share one with four to five students.
Despite all these challenges, and I got a scholarship from Inzone . I am appreciative to Inzone that sponsored my certificate from a recognized University (Kenyatta University in collaboration with the University of Geneva). I wish to continue my education and get at least one professional degree. Rather after graduated high school, I started working with UNHCR at Kakuma as an interpreter in 2014 where I earn a bit under a hundred dollars per month. I use that stipend to support my family. It is difficult to save for my studies. I have tried to find a job that pays more but it is rare to get—given that it does not exist in the camp.
I believe that, what I achieved so far was because of my hard work and commitment for education and my ability to cope with challenges. Indeed not all girls, especially the community I come from, were able to finish their studies due to the above challenges; they dropped out of school and got married. However, constant prayer, advice, and full support from my mother kept me on a right track always.