SOMALIA: Adults join in free primary education

Somali pupils: The school in Jazeera was initiated by the local community and is run by volunteer teachers of the Quran, English, mathematics, music, geography and Kiswahili - file photo IRIN

NAIROBI, 24 May 2010 (IRIN) – One month after peacekeepers helped the local Jazeera village, in Wadajir district, southern Mogadishu, to refurbish a former sweets factory and turn it into a school, enrolment has grown rapidly to include adults, a source said.

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The school offers free primary education, and is run by volunteer teachers of the Quran, English, mathematics, music, geography and Kiswahili. It was initiated by the local community with the peacekeepers providing a secure environment for study.

“The number of students has shot up from nine to nearly 100 within a month,” Maj Nelson Ahebwa, a peacekeeper with the Civil Military Unit of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), said. “We will lobby for support from donors and agencies… to assist the students and the school.”

The adults were keen to learn how to read, write and count, and to speak foreign languages, such as Kiswahili, he said. Some elders living near the school were also interested in learning skills such as carpentry, building, driving and motor vehicle mechanics, but AMISOM did not have the capacity to teach these subjects.

Children attend classes in the morning while parents and other adult learners attend similar classes in the afternoon. “We urge well-wishers to support us; our country has been ravaged by illiteracy, but if many students get an education it would have a positive impact,” AMISOM’s bulletin quoted Abdullahi Ibrahim, one of the volunteer teachers, as saying.

“Extremism will be checked and our children will not be easily lured into fighting,” he added.

Ahebwa echoed the call for support for education in Somalia. “We do not have the budget; that is why we are urging [aid] agencies to introduce innovative projects such as food-for-work, teachers’ incentives and training so that we can sustain the project.

“AMISOM does not have a budget for running sustainable projects like school and that is why we are calling on agencies which work in the field of education and children’s issues to work with both AMISOM and the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] to see how we can coordinate our efforts to provide services like education, health and other humanitarian services,” Ahebwa told IRIN.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), only 24 percent of females between 15 and 24 in Somalia can read.

“In a country where school enrolment is amongst the lowest in the world, 30.7 percent throughout Somalia and 22 percent in Central South, it is crucial that education becomes both an avenue to and the result of peace-building initiatives,” UNICEF-Somalia said in its April newsletter.

Mogadishu has, for years, borne the brunt of violence caused by two Islamist groups fighting government troops, who are supported by the African Union peacekeepers. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced within and outside the country.

“Security in the area [Jazeera] is better than in other parts of Mogadishu in large part due to the presence of the Jazeera training camp, where AMISOM peacekeepers train Somali government forces,” AMISOM said its bulletin.

AMISOM was deployed to stabilise the security situation in Mogadishu; however, insurgents still control large areas of the capital.


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]