Mohammed Sa’eed, a second-year student at Mogadishu Private University’s College of Engineering, uses his motorcycle to commute for two hours a day, in temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, to go to a friend’s house to use the Internet and Zoom in order to attend his lectures.
After his university shut its doors in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Sa’eed returned to his hometown of Lego, 60 miles northwest of Mogadishu, where there is no Wi-Fi service and 3G and 4G telecommunication networks are not available.
“The problem is not limited to accessing the Internet,” said Sa’eed. “Sometimes the power is cut off, which makes it very difficult to keep studying.”
The closure of more than 42 universities in Somalia since March 19, as a precaution to stop the spread of Covid-19, caused some universities to switch to teaching online, as is the case in most Arab countries. However, students in the country, where more than 70 percent of the population lives under poverty line, according to World Bank data, face great technical and living difficulties that impede the continuation of their education. (See a related article, “The Shift to Online Education in the Arab World Is Intensifying Inequality.”)
Before Covid-19, there were more than five million Somalis in need of humanitarian aid, among them 2.6 million displaced people who are particularly vulnerable. In addition, about a million people are affected by floods, and the country is facing its “worst desert locust infestation in nearly 25 years,” according to James Swan, the top United Nations official in Somalia.