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It's Tough Without Any Friends

"I have been struggling over the past year to adjust to our new situation, our new way of life. Like other boys my age, I need a group of friends that I can hang out with."
April 8, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Habdine, a recent school drop-out, talks about the difficult separation from his friends in Kidal and the rough transition between his old life and his new life in Ségou. These are his words...

I argued with my mother again today. We haven’t been able to see eye-to-eye recently. She is cross, perhaps understandably so. She is desperately trying to convince me or even to force me to go back to school. I haven’t been attending school recently. I left school fuming 10 days ago and I haven’t been back since. She is trying to play down the episode which made me leave school nearly two weeks ago. That Monday, I was not allowed to enter the school yard and to attend school because I was not wearing the school uniform. The school uniform is compulsory here. In Kidal, I would never have been excluded from school because of a uniform issue–we were a wealthy family. My parents had good jobs. They had the means to support us. Here however, it is a struggle. It is a constant struggle for everything.

My mother sought advice from the local association who has been helping us since we arrived here. She then went to see the head teacher. She reminded him that we are a displaced family and that we don’t have much money. She promised to resolve the school uniform problem as soon as she could. She later told me that the head teacher was very understanding and that he apologized and said that I should not have been sent home in the first place. When she returned home, she told me that everything was sorted out and that I could go back to school the next day. But for me everything is far from being sorted out.

Being excluded from school the other day was the last straw. I have been struggling over the past year to adjust to our new situation, our new way of life. Like other boys my age, I need a group of friends that I can hang out with. I had my friends in Kidal, but we were all forced to run for our lives and now our group is fragmented. Some of my friends are refugees in Burkina Faso, while others are now living in Niger or Algeria. The friends who remained in Mali are displaced in Mopti or in the capital Bamako.

In March of 2012, I was still disoriented because I had just been separated from my friends. Then I decided to give Ségou a try. I am still struggling to find a group of friends like my friends in Kidal. I could have found friends by now, but our living situation is not helping to making this process easy. The lack of books, pens, school uniforms, suitable after-school clothes, and a proper home to receive friends has prevented me from fitting in with my new peers. I am not seen as "cool" enough. After what happened the other day, I just thought what’s the point? I just wanted to give up. I was so angry, disappointed, and sad.

I didn’t tell my mother, but I know that at some point, I’ll go back to school. I know that school is important. When we first arrived in Ségou, it took them a couple of weeks before they could find a school for me. During that time, I had my first taste of what life would be like as a school drop-out–always at home, doing nothing, learning nothing, and basically having no future. That’s not the life that I want for myself. That’s not the life my mother, the association, and the aid workers would want for me either.

I won’t tell them that, because I don’t want to lose my self-proclaimed status of being a “tough guy”, but I am very grateful to all of them. Our journey, as a family, would have been even harder if they were not here to help us through.


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