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With return to peace, Somali children look to the future with hope

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Somalia
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AMISOM
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MOGADISHU: June 9, 2021 – Thirteen-year-old Ahmed Abdinur Abukar dreams of being a teacher. This year, in May, he took an important step towards realising that dream and sat for the national Primary Education Certificate examinations in Mogadishu, Somalia.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education says over 60 000 students across the country sat for their end of year national examinations for primary and secondary school in May and June, a continuation of a positive trajectory in the education sector — thanks to the return of relative peace and security — after years of war, turmoil and ruin. The improved security continues to remarkably increase student enrollment in school. So, too, an improvement in the quality of education.

We caught up with Ahmed on the day he had sat for his English paper at the Science and Technology campus of the Somalia National University. The university campus was one of the examination centers in Mogadishu. “I know I did very well,” he said with unbridled confidence. “I want to go to university to study education. I want to be a teacher.”

The Federal Government of Somalia has invested heavily in education. In the 2021 budget, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education was allocated US$10.5 million most of which, according to education officials, has gone into the rehabilitation and construction of schools and offices to accommodate the huge number of school enrolment since the government introduced free primary and secondary school education.

This year 26,688 primary school students from 642 schools in Mogadishu and the Banaadir Region sat for their Primary Education Certificate, which began at the end of May at 72 centres and supervised by 1,463 invigilators. In Banaadir Region, Galmudug, HirShabelle, Jubaland and the Southwest States, some 36,143 secondary students sat for Secondary School Certificate examinations.

In Banaadir alone, the examination centres were protected by 877 Somali Police Force (SPF) officers, most of whom have been trained and mentored by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Police.

A BETTER FUTURE

Over many years, Somalia’s young people suffered the collateral damage of conflict. As a result, many dreams were stillborn. Mogadishu was a war zone riddled with bullets, bombs and insecurity. Schools were deserted, children of school going age were used as child soldiers to fight for Al-Shabaab, and other militant terror groups.

In 2009, the tide began to turn.

AMISOM peacekeepers finally liberated Mogadishu from Al-Shabaab and made great strides in peace and security. Subsequently, major Somali cities like Marka, Afgoye, Kismayo, Baidoa, Jowhar, Beledweyne and many other towns were later liberated by the Somali security forces, with AMISOM’s support. In all the liberated areas is a story of hope, revival and development; a construction boom, a changing skyline with new skyscrapers coming up, expansion of commerce and industry, rehabilitation of schools and hospitals and a steady streak of the Somali diaspora returning home to take part in the rebuilding of the country.

No child left behind

Abdirahman Omar Sheikhnur, the Director General (DG) of Education for Banadir Regional Administration, says that in a new Somalia, no child should be left behind. To that end, his administration put in place adequate measures to accommodate children with special needs to write the final primary school examinations. The May examination had 13 of them who are visually impaired and 15 with hearing impairments. With various information technology tools, these students are able to attend class and progress through school like everyone else.

“One area in which we have done well is that we now have a unified curriculum. The curriculum consists of a framework, syllabus, textbooks that are the same for all students across Somalia. All of the students, therefore, write a standardised exam,” said Sheikhnur in his spacious office in Hamarweyne district, the old Mogadishu.

“The centralised education system is very helpful because if a student is transferred, for example, from Mogadishu to Baidoa, he or she immediately can continue with their education because the same syllabus is taught everywhere,” he added.

After writing her exam at the same center as Ahmed, 14-year-old Sabirin Ali Mohamud, was resolute that she would be a nurse.

“I hope to go to university to get my nursing degree and then work in order to repay my parents for their support. I also want to support my siblings and help in rebuilding Somalia, my country,” she said.

Somali children, with the return of peace and security, can now look to the future with hope and optimism.