Thousands of teachers conducted an unprecedented primary school census in northern Somalia, helping produce the first comprehensive government-led survey on the state of schools in that region. The survey, to be repeated yearly, is part of a broad effort to rehabilitate and improve the country’s education system – from the inside out.
Ali Abdullah headmaster at the Koossar Primary School stands in front of his class asking students their ages, how long they took to walk to school, whether they were orphans, and whether any had learning or development needs.
Abdullah is one of thousands of teachers conducting an unprecedented primary school census, helping produce the first comprehensive, government-led survey on the state of northern Somalia’s schools.
SOUNDBITE (Somali) Ali Abdullah, Headmaster, Koosar Primary:
“I have been asking their ages, to find the ratio of their ages, asking how many of them are orphans, who has any disability, also about the teacher, what she is teaching, the class attendance, the class size, you have seen I have even paced it out to estimate its physical size.”
This is the first time that the Somali Ministry of Education has carried out a comprehensive survey in Somaliland and Puntland since the civil war.
Hassan Suleiman leads the census exercise.
SOUNDBITE (English) Hassaan Suleiman, Technical Advisor, Somaliland:
“This information is very important for planning; the resources are very limited in Somaliland in terms of school construction, in terms of teachers, in terms of textbooks. The resources are very inadequate. These small resources, we need to plan very effectively in order to increase the quality of education, for example we are now taking enrolment rate so when we want to decide to construct new class for new schools, we have to analyze this information and determine the ratio of teacher to students, the ratio of textbooks to the pupils.”
Hassan grew up in the United Kingdom and is one of ten Technical Advisors hired under the Integrated Education Capacity Development for Somali Administrators program, or ICDSEA. The program is a partnership between the European Union, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, and aims to build capacity at the Ministry of Education in Somalia.
To create lasting improvements, the European Union, UNICEF, the CfBT Education Trust and the Africa Education Trust designed an innovative program to increase capacity at the country’s education ministries. Central to the strategy is bringing professional Somalis living abroad back to their home country to work alongside senior education ministry staff, passing along their expertise.
In Puntland, northeast Somalia, applicants are undergoing competency exams through phone interviews.
SOUNDBITE (English) Barry Reeves, Lead consultant, ICDSEA program:
“People who have only worked in Somalia don’t have the breadth of experience and obviously they don’t have the experience in successful institutional reform and organizational development because we expect most of the ministries are fairly at basic level of organizational development institutional reform and this is what ICDSEA is trying to do. To build capacities of the ministry to plan and manage the development educational system with donor aid.”
The ICDSEA program is designed to build capacity in the areas of planning and policy, human resources and financial management as well as increase gender equality and assure high education standards.
SOUNDBITE (English) Isabel Faria de Almeida, EU, Head Social Services, Somalia Unit:
“We think that by contributing to improve the capacities of those ministries of Education, we will help the delivery in all other program that we can carry out in Somaliland and Puntland. So if you have a ministry of education that is able to design the policy for primary education for example and have the capacity for implementing to have management systems on resources on teachers that means that the problems that you have on primary education will deliver better.”
Sohar Koshin is a technical advisor with the Ministry’s Gender Unit. Today she explains how using new media like Facebook and Twitter she will connect with Somalis living abroad to raise funds for girl’s education.
SOUNDBITE (English) Sohar Koshin, Technical Advisor, Gender Unit, Puntland:
“We saw the importance of having a different department or unit that is entirely responsible for encouraging girls to go to school and also doing research about what we are the issues and looking for room of avenues for potential solutions and how we can implement those solutions.”
Koshin who grew up in Holland, is working to increase girls’ school attendance. She comes to this school regularly to visit with the students, she chats with the girls who are enjoying a newly built ‘girl friendly space’, a space made possible through the ICDSEA program.
The facility has toilets with running water and a comfortable, communal space. Here the girls can relax, conduct class discussions or study. Considering the domestic chores waiting for them after class, many girls find it difficult to do schoolwork at home.
SOUNDBITE (Somali) Fatuma Mohamed, student, Alwah secondary:
“Before there was no place like this, where girls would meet and rest. We had toilets but they were very close to the boys’ toilets. So because of that, the girls happen to be very shy, they could not use the toilets. Some of them had to hold in their urine until they got back home and as you know the consequences of that health wise.”
Amina Osman grew up in Uganda and returned to work as the expert for quality assurance and examinations.
SOUNDBITE (English) Amina Osman, Technical Advisor, Quality assurance, Puntland:
“For the examinations to be standardized and controlled, and for us to always ensure that our examinations can compete with our regional peers, will give Puntland and Somali students in general a chance to enroll at any university and give them a better chance at jobs.”
In addition to building capacities at the ministry, the Integrated Capacity for Development for Somali Administrators program drives home the element of ownership.
As Somalia’s civil war refugees return to build a national education system, there is a common cause that creates a home grown feel to the approach, and a passion for the future of Somali children.