Mogadishu - After a lull of a weeklong fighting, students returned to school in Mogadishu. Their return was not without risk, however, as they ran across the road to avoid gunfire between Somali government forces and Al-Shabab fighters.
“We are afraid of being caught in crossfire,” said Halima Mohamed, a 13 years old girl and intermediate school student, who was crossing KM road conjunction, near a major AMISOM base.
School attendance in the capital of the war-torn country of Somalia diminishes day by day due to the persistent fighting that daily claims the lives of civilians, including young students.
“Last month a motor shell battered on our school and we lost three of our classmates and our math teacher,” said Mohamed Ali, a student at Waberi School in Mogadishu.
Most of the schools have been looted or demolished, shattering Somalia’s educational system. What schools remain are concentrated in and around urban areas and are mainly financed by fees or aid organizations. Somalia has one of the lowest primary school enrollment rates in the world.
Somalia’s school curriculum has been replaced by curriculums imported from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Britain and Kenya where students now learn the geographical borders, culture and the literature of these countries rather than Somalia.
“The student can know a certain mountain in Saudi Arabia but cannot answer a question on which Somali region Kismayu town falls under,” said Abdi Mohamed, a father whose three sons attend three schools with three different curriculums.
There are at least three different educational Umbrellas, including FPENS, which unites schools under the UAE curriculum.
Somalia has been without effective central government for almost two decades. Most state institutions have vanished in large parts of the country and schools are no exception. Somalia’s educational system was free before 1991 when the
socialist military regime was ousted.
There are limited supplies of educational facilities and very low enrollment rates. Some schools don’t even have textbooks. But regions, such as Somaliland and Puntland have a much stronger education system than South/central Somalia.
School fees are also hindering attendance.
“I have three children and none of them go to school because their father is jobless and cannot afford to pay school fees,” said Shamso Ali, a mother of three children who supports her family selling maize at Elasha neighbourhood, 14 km North-East of Mogadishu.
Detiorating conditions, high school fees, and crossfire are not the only problems students face when they attend school. Recently schools are becoming a place where young children are recruited by armed insurgents fighting against Transitional Federal Government, forcing many parents to keep their kids at home.