RETURNEES DIASPORA KIDS AND SOMALI CULTURE

GAROWE, MAY 23, 2019

It is never easy for kids born overseas in exile with no Somali language skills, cultural experience or imagination of how operating in Somali setting look like as a result of parental failure in raising kids in a foreign environment or refuge camps in Western countries. Most diaspora parents, who themselves were not schooled before they found themselves there, and experiencing language barriers and deep cultural shock, suddenly became the students of their own kids, who pick up foreign languages quicker. Kids become interpreters and translators of the host foreign languages for their own parents. In other words, parental power, while in overseas, shifted to the kids. Parents, therefore, had lost parental influence over kids. Who is going to teach the kids about Somali culture and heritage in host countries then? Hence one often hears the Somali term “Dhaqan Celis” (cultural rehabilitation) in the country.

Diaspora parents seek help for their kids, and their only resort is to send kids back home. The problem back home is that there are no meaningful formal services to provide help in the rehabilitation of these youth to re-orient themselves into the Somali culture and ways of life.

What happens next is that, in the absence of specialized cultural help, kid are re-introduced to their extended family members to help cultivate these diaspora kids along their parents’ cultural heritage. The diaspora kids have no life connections with these people, and the names and extended families have no meaning at all to them. But, where to start to rehabilitate them? Of course, family trees (ancestry) comes first in mind, which means teaching these innocent youth about tribalism and clannism. What is making things even worse is that there are no social amenities or youth programs to get them engaged and make them busy. Double cultural shock and boredom set in in the lives of these young men and girls back home.

Once beaten, twice shy. Diaspora youth wouldn’t opt for another chance to re-visit Somalia, at least, in their early years.

Funny stories about the experience of these young returnees are abundant in Puntland. One such story tells about young female intern in one of the local NGOs, who was informed one morning that they were pleased let her know that she would receive “Mushaar” (salary). To that intern, the the local term Mushaar meant “Mooshaali” (Porridge or oatmeal). After a while, later in that morning, the young woman became impatient waiting for the porridge offerred and asked what had happened to the delivery of the food, to everybody’s laughter.

This story also vainly sheds light on the socio-economic frictions between the “Qorax Joog” (locals) and “Qurba Joog” (diaspora returnees). The locals believe that, with their super job skills, experience and education, the Qurba Joog have better job, political and business opportunities in the country than the Qorax Joog. Hence, a cold war is now slowly brewing, but still at its early stages of debating the issue in the social media and in public/private meetings. If the concerns are not carefully managed in advance, I am affraid of open public confrontations in the foreseeable future as it had happened between Liberian indigenous and diaspora returnees from USA in mid 19th Century.

RECOMMENDATION

ismailwarsame.blog proposes to Puntland/Somalia for setting up formal local NGO services in partnership with international organizations, under State supervision, to provide badly needed help to the Somali Diaspora youth returnees for “dhaqan celis” purposes. Those young men and girls mostly return from Norh America, Western Europe and Arab countries, who may extend help to any sound projects for such kids.

ismailwarsame.blog

(image credit: pewresearch.org)

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