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In Somalia, Educational Quality Starts with Teachers

MOGADISHU, Somalia—Rahma Ali has a newfound sense of purpose.

She recently completed a teacher training program with the Global Campaign for Education, an international coalition of education advocates and NGOs seeking to improve education in the developing world.

“Teachers are key to the success of any education system,” said Ali, now a teacher at Hamar Jajab Primary School here. “It’s very hard to find someone in a poor country like Somalia who has both the qualifications and the training to be a teacher. 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 African nation in the early 1990s took a terrible toll on education in Somalia.

Somali students attend a lesson.

Only 30 percent of primary-school-age children and 26 percent of secondary-school-age youth attend classes, according to the United Nations International Children’s Fund, or Unicef. Only 18 percent of children in rural households attend school.

Violence, poverty, a lack of teachers and school facilities—including shortages of desks, books and other educational 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 in the country.

“There is not yet any national Somali curriculum implemented, so every school and every state does a little bit as they like,” said Lennart Hernander, the federation’s representative in Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti. “There are not enough trained and untrained teachers. Most 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 using $33 million in funding from the Global Campaign for Education.

The training is providing crucial qualifications and training, giving educators a chance to share their experience with new teachers, and helping 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 a good program that ensures teachers earn a qualification to deliver quality education to students,” said Afgoye.

“We want to raise awareness of the 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  [a policy paper on education and training by the Somali government based on the recommendations of education stakeholders] will help the country to acquire better-quality teachers, which is key for achieving quality education for all Somali children.”

Afgoye hopes teachers in the program will share insights from it with other educators. Meanwhile, Somali officials are building or renovating schools. Tens of thousands of students who are either new to the education system or who had dropped out previously due to a lack of resources are expected to come to classes in the next few years, he said.

The Global Campaign for Education is not the only teacher training project in Somalia. Similar programs are in place in 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 in training more teachers, especially female teachers, to fight gender inequality in regional schools, where only 3 percent of teachers are women.

The Somali Education Ministry’s Teacher 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 [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 there is progress. Somalis are embracing school as their country’s education system grows more robust.

“We are now confident in taking 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 up 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.”


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