Life at Mogadishu's largest orphanage

Being an orphan in Somalia means finding your way through life without the support of the one institution that defines who you are: your clan

Updated Feb 19, 2016

In Somalia your clan is your protector, your lineage, your identity, and the basic building bloc of the country's culture.

However, after over thirty years of war and violence countless numbers of Somali children are orphans. It's a status that carries a lot of stigma in a conservative society with strong clan identities.

But there is a space in the country's capital, Mogadishu, that's experimenting with an education model arming them with the skill set that they need to fight the stigma of orphanhood.

The Anatolia Educational Centre is a place where orphans and non orphans are educated together to the highest standards. The project is fully funded by the Turkish NGO IHH, and implemented by the Zamzam Foundation, a well respected Somali NGO and a local partner of IHH.

What struck me when my team and I visited the Anatolia Education Centre is the energy there. I was greeted by Mr Abdilkadir Hirabe, the Centre's director general and a former Zamzam staff member. A jovial man, he was clearly proud of what they've achieved.

All the children are admitted based on how well they do on tests, he told me. The students are taught in four languages: Somali, Turkish, Arabic and English. Simply commanding these four languages will give the children a head start over others.

And with this high standard of education comes ambition. We met orphans who want to become doctors, engineers and teachers when they grow up. They dream big. My hope for them is that the new Somalia will be able to accommodate their big dreams.

Author: Zeina Awad