SOMALIA: Taking Schools Back From Militants
By Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar
MOGADISHU, Dec 26, 2011 (IPS) - Schools are beginning to re-open slowly in
areas of capital Mogadishu that were until recently controlled by the
militant Islamic group al-Shabaab. But an estimated 80 percent of students
have not yet returned.
Schools are beginning to re-open slowly in areas of capital Mogadishu that
were until recently controlled by the militant Islamic group al-Shabaab. But
an estimated 80 percent of students have not yet returned.
The government is moving also to create a unified syllabus for all schools.
Al-Shabaab controlled schools had been running a separate Islamic
Eleven of Mogadishu's 16 districts were under the control of the Al-Qaeda
linked militants before their
thousands-of-tonnes-> August withdrawal from the capital. Only 20 of the 78
existing schools in these districts have opened since September, but they
are mainly empty as families slowly return to the capital.
Somalia was the hardest hit by the
s/%22http:/www.ips.org/africa/2011/07/somalia-i-carried-him-> drought in the
Horn of Africa with the
s/%22http:/www.un.org/en/%22> United Nations (U.N.) declaring famine in
parts of southern Somalia.
Sadeq Salaad, from the non-governmental organisation Formal Private
Educational Network in Somalia (FPENS), told IPS that 78 schools in north
and northeastern parts of the capital were closed because of the daily armed
confrontations between Al-Shabaab and forces loyal to the government in
those areas since mid-2009.
"According to our statistics only 20 schools in these war-ravaged areas have
reopened and that is because of the small number of families which have
returned to their homes in the city since August," he said.
In Somalia, most schools are managed by the FPENS, as the Somali
Transitional Federal Government has yet to gain control over them after
years of war in this East African nation.
FPENS has been managing schools here since the country fell into anarchy in
1991 with the outbreak of the Somali Civil War. During that time there had
been no central government control over the country.
"Another big problem is that so many schools were destroyed by the wars and
they need to be rebuilt. There are some schools that were reopened but are
partly destroyed," Sadeq told IPS by telephone.
Boondheere district in the northeastern part of the capital is a former
Al-Shabaab controlled area. Twelve schools here were closed during the
militant group's three-year siege of Mogadishu.
Mujama Umul Qura, which is said to be the largest school in this district
with a capacity for 6,000 students, became the first school in the area to
open its doors in October. But only a few students are enrolled here.
"At least 20 percent of our 6,000 students are currently here. We hope that
all students will restart their education by January," the school's
principal Sheik Hassan Mohamed Ahmed told IPS.
The International Islamic Relief Organization runs Mujama Umul Qura and the
school curriculum differs from that of other schools in this area. It is a
common occurrence in Somalia.
Somali Education Minister Ahmed Aideed Ibrahim told IPS that his ministry is
currently attempting to combine the different curriculums being taught at
Somali schools into one unified syllabus.
"We are in consultations with experts from the former Somali Education
Ministry and we are discussing ways to unite the different curriculums used
in the country. We hope to reach our target within the next eight months and
we are very hopeful that the country's former curriculum will once again be
in place," he said.
While students and parents say they are happy with the opening of some of
the schools in the capital, most homes in the former Al-Shabaab controlled
districts are in need of major repairs, and residents say this is one of the
main reasons why more families are yet to return to the capital.
Hasna Abdulkader Farah, a mother of five, said that two of her sons would
have graduated from high school on January 2011 if the country's ongoing
conflict had not affected their education.
"I am praying to Allah to punish Al-Shabaab in his hell, because they caused
many problems for us. Praise be to Allah now we are safe and my children
have returned to school," Hasna told IPS.
Many other children in Somalia suffered a worse fate, as they were easy
targets for militant recruitment.
Ibrahim told IPS that a large number of Somali children of school-going age
have been used as combatants in country's long-running conflict. He said
that a lack of education was the main cause for the increasing number of
child soldiers in this war-ravaged country.
Ibrahim said that his ministry is planning to build colleges and boarding
schools for orphans and children from poor families in an attempt to prevent
them from being recruited by militant groups.
"The Somali government is giving particular consideration to this sector,
because lack of education has lead thousands of children to be very
vulnerable to warmongers who have been monopolising them as warriors for the
past two decades," Ibrahim told IPS.
In the past, education was free in Somalia but Ibrahim could not say if his
ministry would be able to continue with this.
Mohamed Abdullahi, the chairman of Somali Students' Union (SSU), told IPS
that the organisation welcomed the reestablishment of education in the
"If there is no education it means we have no bright future, because when
education is growing, the civilisation also grows. So the SSU is very much
jubilant at the restart of education in the war-devastated parts of
Mogadishu," he said.
He called on the Somali government and the U.N. Educational Scientific and
Cultural Organization to help rebuild the destroyed schools.
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Received on Mon Dec 26 2011 - 17:36:15 EST