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Part II: Analytic Section



According to UNDOS (see 1.2 above) in 1997 the population of the 3-5 age group was 602,756 (49.9% female), consisting of about 9% of the total population of Somalia. Even if it is assumed that 3-5 years is the official age-group for ECD, a gross enrolment ratio (GER) cannot be estimated because no

Somalia-wide ECD enrolment data is available. In 1975 kindergartens for 4-5 year-olds were instituted as part of the formal education system. However, the number of kindergartens and enrolment have remained small; an enrolment of 2,089 in 17 kindergartens is reported for 1984 (UNICEF-Somalia, 1998a). Describing the situation in the latter 1990s, UNICEF-Somalia (1999a) points out that (a) a small number of kindergartens are run by NGOs and private individuals in the largest urban centres; (b) structured learning opportunities for the majority of pre-primary age children are concentrated in Koranic schools; and (c) the quality of learning in both the Koranic school and kindergartens is questionable.

Two UNICEF studies in the latter 1990s (Njoe, 1996 and 1998) found that in the North West and North East zones 59% and 39% respectively, of all children attended Koranic school (for 2 to 2 hours per day), usually for two years, between the ages of 4 and 10 years. Enrolments were high in urban and settled rural areas and low among nomads (Table 2). Morah and Musa (1997) found that in the North West zone (a) pre-school age children (4-5 years of age) accounted for less than 14% of the Koranic school enrolment; and (b) 54% of children attending Koranic schools were 9 years of age and above and that 30% attended primary school simultaneously. UNICEF-Somalia (1998a:8-33) estimates that in 1997 Koranic school enrolment in the North West was about 37,500 (about the same number enrolled in formal primary schools). Comparable data is not available for the central and southern zones but there is no reason to believe that the picture would be substantially different.

Table 2. Percentages of 4-10 year-olds Attending Koranic School, 1996/97

Population Category

North West

North East




Sedentary Rural









Source: Njoe, 1996 and 1998

From the foregoing discussion, it is obvious that, even though the two systems are not strictly alternatives, the proportion of the 3-5 age group enrolled in either Koranic schools or kindergartens is small. Particularly important, as shown in Table 2, nomadic communities, comprising more than 50% of the total population of Somalia (see 1.2), are poorly served in Koranic education. This fact comprises a major challenge to the future development of the education system.

Partly responding to findings that Koranic schools are diversifying their curricula to include secular disciplines, since the civil war UNICEF, UNESCO-PEER and some NGOs have provided sets of textbooks and other instructional materials to a small number of Koranic schools in various parts of Somalia. Potentially more significant, in 1997 UNICEF assisted in launching an action research project, based on 35 selected Koranic schools in the North West zone, to pave the way for integration into formal primary school through improved curriculum. The project aims to stimulate diversified learning and initiate the development of literacy, numeracy and life skills at an early age, and to encourage entry into and continuation of primary school education. Materials have been developed and teachers trained for instruction in the Somali language, arithmetic and life skills. Plans are underway to replicate the project in the North East and Central zones. This project, an evaluation of which is intended, has been incorporated into UNICEF-Somalia’s Master Plan of Operations, 1999-2000, which, responding to issues discussed in 2.2 above, articulates the rationale as follows:

A well-designed, age-appropriate, pedagogically sound and socio-culturally relevant early childhood education (ages 3 to 6) programme will not only promote cognitive and emotional development of young children but will also lay the strong foundation for more relevant learning in primary education. The Programme plans to initiate an action research with a view to developing a strategy for integrating Early Childhood Education in existing learning centres, notably Koranic schools and NGO-run kindergartens (UNICEF-Somalia, 1999:61).

The available data on primary school enrolment (e.g.) the survey data collected for the 1997 and 1998/99 UNICEF primary school reports) do not have information on the pupils'ECD experience. Thus it is not possible to calculate the percentage of new entrants to primary grade 1 who attended some form or organised ECD programme.

Although plans are underway to collect data on the interface between ECD and primary school, the more challenging task will be the development of a clearly defined role of the Koranic school vis-a-vis the formal primary school. At the root of the UNICEF project discussed above is the idea that the Koranic school can be developed to supplement or substitute formal primary education. The project should come up with empirical evidence on the proposition that Koranic schools should be strengthened to serve as feeder schools for rural or urban primary schools, with the former offering grade 1 or 2 and thus grade 2 or 3 being the point of transfer to the latter. This possibility is seen as a viable approach to the expansion of access to basic education among rural nomadic communities who constitute more than half of the population of Somalia.


5.2.1 Enrolment

Some caveats needs to be made with regard to the calculation of the apparent intake rate (AIR), i.e. new entrants in primary grade 1 as a percentage of the population of the official entry age. In Somalia there is no official entry age for primary school. Entrants into grade 1 fall within a wide age range,with some entrants being older than 14 years - regarded as the final year in other countries with an 8-year primary school course. Delayed entry partly stems from a parental / community expectation, encouraged by some religious leaders, that the child should master the quintessence of Koranic school (memorisation of the Koran) before proceeding to formal primary school. The following estimation of AIR makes two assumptions (a) on the basis of findings from studies worldwide, the official entry age into grade 1 should be about 6 years; and (b) the reported grade 1 enrolment data comprised primarily of new entrants.

Extrapolating from the 1997 UNDOS population figures, there were 343,695 children in Somalia aged 6 years. Data collected through the 1998/99 UNICEF survey indicated a grade 1 enrolment of 39,340. Although the collection of the survey data over several months overlapping into 1999 weakens the validity of the estimate, the following AIR gives the general picture.

Table 3. Apparent Intake Rate, 1998/99


Population of

6-year olds (P)

Grade 1

Enrolment (N)

AIR (N/P*100)













The age profile of entrants into primary grade 1 is not available; therefore the net intake rate (NIR) cannot be calculated. As part of the effort by ESC (through UNICEF) to develop an Education Management Information System

(EMIS) for Somalia, a class register (in which, inter alia each pupil’s date of birth is recorded) is being introduced in primary schools. Thus with effect from the year 2000 intake it should be possible to estimate the NIR.

Table 4 shows the primary education GER in 1997 and 1998. It is assumed that 6-14 years is the official primary school-age group. The enrolment figures are those reported through the questionnaires for UNICEF’s 1997 and 1998/99 school survey data. As indicated in the discussion on Indicator 3, the prolonged data collection for the latest of the two surveys detracts from the validity of the estimate. For 1997, the population data for the 6-14 was obtained from the UNDOS database, while for the corresponding 1998/99 population was extrapolated from the 1997 figure using a 3% annual growth rate.

Table 4. Primary Education Gross Enrolment Ratio, 1997 and 1998/99





Enrolment (E)

Population of

6-14 years (P)



Enrolment (E)

Population of

6-14 years (P)
























The GER figures in Table 4 are lower than other recent estimates. For instance, for 1996 UNICEF-ESARO (1998) estimated a GER of 11% (male=13; female=8), while UNICEF-Somalia (1998a) estimated an overall figure of 17% for 1997. It is most likely that the differences largely reflect the use of different population figures for the 6-14 age group. However, measurement difficulties cannot hide the fact that Somalia is characterised by very low primary school enrolments and with no indication of positive change. Female access is more limited, with about 1 girl for every 2 boys in the 1998/99 enrolment.

Because data on the age profile of the primary school enrolment is not available, the net enrolment ratio (NER) cannot be calculated. As indicated in the discussion on Indicator 4, measures have been taken to ensure that in future the NER can be calculated.

5.2.2 Costs and Financing

In view of the fact that since 1991 there has not been a country-wide government, the base does not exist for the calculation of Indicator 7 (public current expenditure as (a) a percentage of GNP; and (b) per pupil as a

percentage of GNP per capita), and Indicator 8 (public expenditure on primary education as a percentage of total expenditure on education).

Currently, public primary education is financed from two sources: (a) external - grants provided by multilateral and bilateral organisations and international NGOs; and (b) internal - including school fees and purchases of some instructional material met by parents, and community contributions mainly for the provision of physical facilities and rehabilitation (Development Solutions for Africa, 1998). Fees paid by parents is the most common mode of community support of primary education. According to the 1998/99 school survey, out of 625 schools responding to the relevant item, 604 (97%) indicated that apart from paying school fees parents did not incur additional expenditures on primary schools. There was little variation across zones, with the North West registering 95%, North East 96% and Central/South 98%. Table 5 and Figure c, based on a total of 614 schools that indicated fees ranges, show the status of per pupil fees across the three zones.

Table 5. Fees per Pupil per Month by Zone, 1998/99 (in US Dollars)

(%s in brackets)


No. of Schools





North West (NW)

175 (100)

20 (11)

59 (34)

92 (53)

4 (02)

North East (NE)

115 (100)

20 (17)

37 (32)

49 (43)

9 (08)

Central/South (C/S)

324 (100)

192 (59)

86 (27)

39 (12)

7 (02)


614 (100)

232 (38)

182 (30)

180 (29)

20 (03)

Source: UNICEF Primary Schools’ Survey Data, 1998/99

Table 5 and Figure c show considerable variations with regard to the payment of fees. While for the whole of Somalia 62% of schools indicated that they required households to pay fees for their children, in the North West and North East zones this proportion - 89% and 83% respectively - was much higher, starkly standing out against 41% in the Central and Southern zones. Equally important, there is evidence to the effect that in schools where fees are paid the per pupil amounts meet less than half of the cost of a reasonable primary education. The cost and financing study by Development Solutions for Africa (1998:34) found that per pupil fees averaged at $1.30 per month, amounting to $15.6 per year. Projecting the charge on parents into its calculation of an indicative cost (Table 6) of a reasonable primary education, the study found that households would need to contribute a total of $17.16 or about 42% of the estimated unit cost (Table 7).

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