Somalia: Somali Parents Take Charge of Education



Mogadishu — For decades, Somalia has had no government and thus no state education system. About 40 percent of Somali children attend school, according to UN figures. Most of these schools are run by parents.

A thick layer of dry leaves rests on the stairs leading up to the classroom. No one has bothered to sweep away the leaves ever since the school in the Somali capital of Mogadishu was severely damaged in the civil war. Since 2011 no one has taught in these classrooms. Lessons are held in a handful of rooms in neighboring buildings.

For pupils in Somalia it’s time for summer holidays, but there’s still work being done in the damaged rooms.

“We are currently renovating five classrooms,” said principal Hassan Adawe Ahmed. “Last year we got seven back in order.”

Money for the project comes from the Somali aid group DGB (Help for All), which receives its funding from the German NGOs Caritas and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe as well as the German government. The civil war in Somalia has spanned more than 20 years. During that time, the school that Ahmed runs has been severely damaged three times, most recently in 2011. The Islamist al-Shabab militants had barricaded themselves in the school and were attacked by troops from the African Union.

“After the latest attack, the roof was completely destroyed, the shutters and doors were stolen,” said Ahmed, adding that some of the classrooms have been remodeled, the benches there freshly painted. They’re making progress in the other classrooms, too. “Soon, we’ll be able to hold lessons for the pupils again,” Ahmed said.

Parents take charge

The school is called “Umulhura,” a Somali name given to women. When times were good, 3,000 pupils attended classes here, but now there are only 600. The falling numbers are a direct result of the civil war. The more violent the battles, the more people were forced to flee.

In the past year, the situation has stabilized somewhat. For the first time in more than 20 years, Somalia has a legitimate government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The school that Ahmed leads is much older than the new government: Classes have been held here for 18 years.