Somalia: Long term work brings education

The international attention for the starving people at the Horn of Africa is almost gone. But for Diakonia and its local partner organizations the long term work for development goes on. Here an interview with Diakonia’s country representative in Somalia, Stephen Ndichu.

Why has there been such a difference in how the drought affected the southern parts of Somalia compared the northern parts?

In the northern parts of Somalia, namely Puntland and Somaliland, the authorities worked closely with both local and international non governmental organizations to mitigate the effects of the drought. In the southern parts of Somalia, international organizations were largely non existent and where they were existing, they were not able to provide enough interventions for the drought.

Organisations like Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), usually provide for forecast information on drought and famines – these were very active in the northern parts of Somalia in providing information through which interventions could be designed. The efforts of these organisations were critically hampered in the southern part of Somalia and therefore could not provide forecast information effectively.

In the northern parts of Somalia, the access to education is better than in the southern part of Somalia. Why is that?

The current gross enrolment rates, as indicated in the UNICEF Primary School Survey (2006/2007) is 30.7 pe rcent, in the Somaliland is 44 per cent, in Puntland it is 40 per cent, while in Central South Somalia it is 22 per cent. This largely attributed to the efforts of the local authorities coupled with interventions by non governmental organisations.

In the southern part of Somalia the conflicts result in displacements and disruption of school activities. In areas where insurgent groups are in control, restrictions to what is taught in the curriculum are imposed, for instance, there are areas where civic education, geography and history are not allowed to be taught.

Although the line between democracy and education is thin and hazy, it can be implied that the processes of democracy, alongside peace building efforts, in the nothern parts of Somalia, have improved access to education.

What has been Diakonia’s role in building up the education system in Puntland?

Diakonia’s work in Puntland’s education ranges from the construction of 29 primary schools, 1 girls boarding secondary school, a teachers’ training college complete with a girls’ hostel, to teacher training, vocational education and assisting the government in developing curriculum and policies in education.

Diakonia has worked with local partner organizations to enable better management of schools and education financing, by engaging Community Education Committees (Parent Teacher Associations) in providing oversight and management for the 29 schools. The committees also provide for modalities of teacher salaries.

Garowe Teacher Education College (GTEC) was constructed in 2004 and has since been autonomously handed to a Board of Governors. The college has offered primary and secondary teacher diplomas to 244 graduates (26 per cent female), in both in-service and pre-service teacher training courses. Since the graduates of GTEC started teaching in various schools, the level of performance in the annual national examinations had improved significantly.

Diakonia’s partner organization Kaalo Relief and Development Organisation was engaged in the establishment of Puntland Community College (PCC) with the assistance from the Somali Diaspora, which later became Puntland State University, which has 814 students enrolled (38.5 per cent female) in degree and diploma courses. Most of the graduates from PSU are now working in the government and in non governmental organisations. Thus Diakonia is providing the much need human resource capable is initiating change in Somalia.

Through local partner organisations vocational skills training programmes, a total of 4,664 youth (46 per cent female) between the ages of 16-24 years, have received skills training relevant to the labour market. Tracer studies have indicated an average of 60 per cent of the youth have attained formal and self-employment that earns them an approximated US$70 per month. This result in improving the lives of the youth and their families, by lifting them from the abject poverty of living on less than US$1 per day, which is the case for over 50 per cent of the Somali population.

Through local partner organisations adult literacy programmes a total of 5,000 youth and adults (64 per cent female) have learned to read and write.The syllabi utilised in the adult literacy is enriched with aspects of democracy, human rights, peace building and environmental awareness, thus providing much needed awareness for the beneficiaries.

Through the advocacy work of Diakonia with the government of Puntland, alongside other actors in the Education sector, the Puntand government increased its expenditure in the education sector from 1.3 per cent in 2008/2009 to 1.7 per cent in 2009/2010. The government has also employed a total of 888 teachers into its payroll, of which 23 per cent are female teachers.

In Somalia, Diakonia’s work has been quite different. Why is that?

When Diakonia started its work in Somalia in 1994, there was a great need for education access for the large population that had been displaced by the civil war. The jist of the interventions were largely emergency and recovery, with a bit of development work.

In the latter periods of 2004, the need to work on better governance of the then established Puntland state was required, however, a direct intervention on democracy would not have augered well with the administration. Therefore, Diakonia used the indirect approach of using education to pass on the message of democracy and human rights.

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