» How a literacy programme in Somalia changed the life of a teenage girl
29.05.2017 - Education Sector

How a literacy programme in Somalia changed the life of a teenage girl


“I am a very different person ever since I have been able to read and write,” says seventeen-year old Fardowsa Bile Abdullahi from Mogadishu, Somalia. “My family trusts me with their business since I am able to calculate money and do the business transaction, as result of the knowledge I gained at the centre.”

Fardowsa is among the young women who benefitted from a literacy and life skills project funded by Al Maktoum and implemented by UNESCO in Somalia. She lost both of her parents at a young age and is currently staying with relatives. Fardowsa did not have the opportunity to learn and access education as a child due to civil unrest and bitter clan rivalry in her country. Basic education was only accessible to the few who could afford it, as most education institutions were private.

The lack of a stable government in South Central Somalia made it impossible to provide education for children like Fardowsa. It was through her close friends that she found out about the opportunity to study at a community learning centre in Mogadishu, with the support of Al Maktoum Foundation, UNESCO, and the Ministry of Education. “One day while I was going to the market, a friend of mine told me about this opportunity at the Somalia National Women Community Training Centre: I immediately went to the centre to register for the literacy, numeracy and entrepreneurship courses,” says Fardowsa. “This is a free and golden opportunity for learners like me who never had the chance to study.” Fardowsa does not take what she has for granted. She is optimistic about the future and wants to study further to improve her life.

Literacy level in Somalia

Somalia has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates for school-aged children. There are 4.4 million out-of-school children, almost half of the country’s total population of 9.2 million. Only four out of ten children in Somalia are in school. The country is far from reaching the Sustainable Developmental Goals of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and the only way is to develop standardized quality literacy and life skills training which helps to improve access and equity to literacy education for such children.

The security situation in the capital Mogadishu and throughout the country remains unstable and dangerous. Terrorist attacks in Somalia are common and are most often carried out by suicide bombing. This has made it hard for youth like Fardowsa to access the community-learning centre and attend classes.

“Despite several attacks and bombings near our community learning centre this year, I will continue pursuing my dream pursuing my education and livelihood.” Fardowsa said. “I’m grateful to Al Maktoum Foundation, Ministry of Education, UNESCO and the Somali National Women centre, for giving me this second chance in life.”

UNESCO has been at the forefront of global literacy efforts since 1946, advancing the vision of a literate world for all.  

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