Education in Somalia starts with teachers

Somali students attend a class session. Somalia's Ministry of education, through the help of the Global Education Fund, is now training primary and secondary school teachers to improve the quality of education for its students.MOGADISHU, Somalia – Rahma Ali has a newfound sense of purpose.

“Teachers are key to the success of any education system,” said Ali, a teacher at Hamar Jajab Primary School in Mogadishu who recently completed a teacher training program with the Global Campaign of Education, an international coalition of education advocates and NGOs seeking to improve education in the developing world.

“It’s very hard to find someone in poor country like Somalia who has both the qualifications and the training to be a teacher,” she said. “But we are very happy to receive the training so that we can give our children a quality education.”

The outbreak of civil war in this East Africa nation in the early 1990s took a terrible toll on education in Somalia.

Only 30 percent of primary school-age children and 26 percent of secondary school-age kids attend classes, according to the UN Children's Fund, or UNICEF. Only 18 percent of children in rural households attend school.

Violence, poverty, lack of teachers and school facilities – including shortages of desks, books and other educations materials – are among the many hurdles to improving the Somali school system, according to the Lutheran World Federation, which supports 7,000 students, teachers, school staff and others in educational training programs.

Where children are learning, they’re often studying lessons that have little relationship to their peers throughout the country.

“There is not yet any national Somali curricula implemented, so every school and every state do a little bit as they like,” said Lennart Hernander, the federation’s representative in Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti. “There are no enough trained and untrained teachers. Most of the parents also have to pay for their children to attend school, which many of them cannot afford.”

But, as Ali’s experience illustrates, the tide is slowly turning.

Since August 2017, Somalia has been training primary and secondary school teachers with $33 million in funding from the Global Campaign for Education, an international coalition of education advocates and NGOs seeking to improve education in the developing world.

“We want to raise awareness of importance of teachers in quality education,” said Adam Mohamed, national coordinator of Somali Coalition for Education for All, a member of the campaign. “The teacher’s education policy document will help the country to acquire better quality teacher which is key for achieving quality education for all the Somali children.”

The training is providing crucial qualifications and training, give educators a chance to share their experience and help Somalia develop uniform rules and regulations for the teaching profession throughout the country, said Ali Afgoye, who oversees implementation of educational policies as director of the Somali Ministry of Education.

“It’s good program that ensures teachers earn qualification of teaching to deliver quality education to students,” said Afgoye.

Afgoye hoped teachers in the program would share insights from it. Somali officials were now building or renovating around schools. Tens of thousands of students were expected to come to classes in the next few years, he added.

The Global Campaign for Education is not the only teacher training occurring in Somalia.

The training has also spread to other parts of the country.

In the self-declared state of Somaliland – where violence is less frequent and the government is more stable – education ministry officials have been especially successful training more teachers, especially female teachers, to fight gender inequality in regional schools where only 3 percent of women are teachers.

The Somali Education Mministry’s Teachers Training Department has also trained at least 35 teachers in recent years.

“We are training teachers to make them more professional,” said Mohamed Abdi, a lecturer at the Banadir Teacher Training Institute in Mogadishu. “Teachers who are not well-trained cannot provide a quality education. They will fail students. Lack of trained teachers contributes to lower enrollment of students.”

The biggest challenge is finding qualified people to train as teachers, however, said Abdi.“Many of [Somalis] do not qualify to train as teachers, so we are forced to lower the entry grade so that we can have more,” he said.

But progress is being made. Somalis are embracing school as their country’s education system grows more robust.

“We are now confident to take our children to school because we have trained teachers,” said Hassan Mohamed, a father of six who has been taking his children to a madrassa, an Islamic religious school in Mogadishu. “Our children used to grow old in schools but still struggle to learn basic literacy and numeracy. Some of them used to drop out of school without being able to read or write properly.”

An alternative version of this story can be found in Al-Fanar Media. 
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