Working through the Challenges: UNESCO helps bring hope and progress in Somali Education during a difficult week
Mogadishu – 20 June 2013 - More than two hundred Somali education experts gathered in Mogadishu, Somalia, for the first time in twenty years for a three day National Education Conference (NEC) supported by a joint UNESCO-UNICEF team.
Despite the attacks on the UN Compound that took place on the second day, the Somali authorities and the Conference team were able to formulate a set of priority actions and mechanisms to strengthen the Somali education system, notably by strengthening cooperation between national and regional education authorities. In the words of the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the NEC “sent a clear message to those who had planned the heinous attack on the UN Compound that Somalis rejected the call of hate and violence”. He further stated that education is “the key pillar for the reconstruction of the country and the reconciliation process.”
As of today, in Somalia, only 710,860 children out of an estimated 1.7 million of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school, and only 37% of school learners in general are female. These figures reflect years of sustained violence that has greatly hampered the development of national curriculum, norms and standards and sector planning. As a result, the educational system in the country has become fragmented, affecting the educational stability in its entirety.
To overcome these huge gaps, the NEC brought together high level education policy makers, planners, academics, the private sector, NGO representatives and members of civil society from all parts of the country including the Somali Diaspora.
Over the course of the three days they reviewed the challenges and identified common responses. Five themes were the particular focus of attention: educational governance; quality of education; access to education; non-formal educational and basic skills training for youth and higher education.
Mohamed Djelid, UNESCO’s Regional Director and Representative to Somalia, stressed during the opening ceremonies that “Somalia’s education should progress along a path that Somalis decide, within a sector-wide vision supported by partners working together within a framework of acceptable norms and standards in education”, adding that “Somali educational authorities should expect to enjoy the same standards of educational support as in other countries.”
On the second day of the NEC, at approximately 11:35AM, the UN Common Compound in Mogadishu came under attack by Al Shabaab militants. The next three and a half hours, the sounds of gunfire and explosions were clearly heard across the city as Somali National Forces with the support of AMISOM attempted to secure the compound. (see sidebar)
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, in his closing remarks, expressed his delight that the NEC had continued despite the terrible events, and said that that Conference had “sent a clear message to those who had planned the heinous attack on the UN Compound that Somalis rejected the call of hate and violence”, and called education “the key pillar for the reconstruction of the country and the reconciliation process.”
In her closing remarks, the Minister stated that “with support of the Ministry’s friends - UNESCO and UNICEF - the Ministry was able to demonstrate in the most tangible way possible that things were possible to change in Somalia.
The NEC (18-20 June 2013), was organized by the Directorate of Education, Culture and Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Development and Public Services and supported by UNESCO’s Regional Office for Eastern Africa (Nairobi) along with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Conference and the capacity-development programme that will be put in place to support the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the meeting, are funded from UNESCO’s Emergency Funds.
Michael Croft (Programme Coordinator), Hassan Keynan (Programme Specialist in Education) and Walter Matoke (Programme Assistant) comprised the UNESCO support team sent to Mogadishu. Read Quotes
Many participants highlighted that this was the first conference they attended which was conducted entirely in the national language, which was deeply appreciated and demonstrated that the process was entirely national owned.