In the coastal African country of Somalia, a long history of famine and war has made it difficult for the school system to flourish. Civil conflict, an underdeveloped government and natural disasters have all served to stunt the growth of education in Somalia.
But hope is not lost—both government and nonprofit organizations are developing methods to increase access to quality schools. Below are eight facts about the country’s education system and current efforts to improve the landscape.
- Few children have the opportunity to attend school in Somalia, with a 30 percent average primary school enrollment rate that dips to 18 percent in secluded regions. Due to severe poverty and the nomadic culture that pervades more than half of the population, sending children to traditional schools is impractical and impossible for many families.
- Vast gender disparity also plagues the education system. Less than half of all Somali students are girls, and just one-quarter of women between 15 and 24 are literate, versus 37.8 percent of men.
- Ninety-eight percent of Somali girls undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) at some point in their lives, 80 percent between ages five and nine. Girls who attend school, though, are less likely to face the procedure.
- Recognizing this correlation, Somali activist Hawa Aden Mohamed established the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) in the 1990s to create increased access to education in Somalia, especially for girls. The organization has since provided primary schooling to 800 girls and an “un-formal” education to 1,600 adolescent women.
- Education itself works as an agent to prevent girls from experiencing FGM. In addition, the GECPD teaches its students about the dangers of FGM and encourages them to break the cycle within their own families, as nearly two-thirds of Somali women and girls approve of the practice of FGM.
- Thanks to the GECPD’s work, the girls’ school enrollment rate has risen to 40 percent in the northeast region of the country, while the national average is just 24.6 percent.
- Raising these numbers is vital, as 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old. In addition, youth unemployment swells at 67 percent. With a better education system and ample opportunities for both boys and girls, Somalia stands a great chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and building a successful economy.
- Earlier this year, an education summit was held in Garowe, where The Ministry of Education in Puntland discussed education policy and curriculum with the federal government. Federal Minister of Education Abdirahman Dahir Osman announced that committees will begin working on issues within the education system and that Egypt has contributed funding to the cause. The involved organizations will soon release more information on the summit’s conclusions.
While the current circumstances may look bleak, the future holds a wealth of possibilities. With the continued support of the government and organizations such as the GECPD, education in Somalia is on track to turn around.
– Madeline Forwerck