October 8 2008

SOS Schools in Mogadishu closed for the foreseeable future

08/10/2008 - Following an incident in Mogadishu on Tuesday in which four SOS teachers and an SOS administrator were held captive for over six hours and had their lives threatened, it has been decided to close both the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School and the SOS Nursing School for an indefinite period.


Photo: A. Gabriel
President Helmut Kutin visited the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Mogadishu only in March 2008 - photo: A. Gabriel
The teachers, Kenyans of Somali origin, are severely traumatised and will be returning to Kenya as soon as possible.

The incident was triggered by an earlier attack by insurgents on the police post which is located next to the temporary school facilities. It is thought that, in retribution, the police entered the compound, killing two people (who were not SOS staff but acting as caretakers on behalf of the owner) and capturing the SOS co-workers, although none were involved in the earlier attack.   

The SOS Children's Villages Regional Director East Africa, Wilhelm Huber, who lived in Mogadishu before and during the civil war, made the decision to close the schools, saying that the lives of SOS co-workers and students can no longer be placed at risk. They will reopen when it is considered safe to do so. Meanwhile the SOS Mother and Child Hospital and the satellite clinic at Afgoye, 22 km outside Mogadishu, are still functioning.

The SOS Children's Village itself was evacuated in December 2007 and the children and mothers are living in other parts of Mogadishu which were once considered safe. There have been discussions on several occasions with our key staff members on the ground in Mogadishu regarding a possible relocation of SOS families and the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, back to the original SOS Children's Village, but that is still considered too risky. Today, nowhere in Mogadishu is safe and the situation of the children and co-workers is being constantly monitored.