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The battered nation of Somalia struggles to rebuild its schools

Only 20 of 78 schools have reopened since September following years of war and bloodshed

Following years of battle, famine and drought, the African nation of Somalia is slowly but surely reopening its schools for students. The situation remains desperate, as it is estimated that 80 percent of the students - who fear for their lives have not yet returned. In the capital of Mogadishu, many areas of the city were controlled by the militant Islamic group al-Shabaab.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Eleven of Mogadishu's 16 districts had been under the iron fist of the Al-Qaeda linked militants before their withdrawal in August. Only 20 of the 78 existing schools in these districts have opened since September.

The government is moving to create a unified syllabus for all schools, where in the past, Al-Shabaab controlled schools had been running a separate Islamic curriculum.

"According to our statistics only 20 schools in these war-ravaged areas have reopened and that is because of the small number of families which have returned to their homes in the city since August," Sadeq Salaad, from the non-governmental organization Formal Private Educational Network in Somalia, or FPENS says.

The majority of the schools here are managed by the FPENS, as the Somali Transitional Federal Government has yet to gain control over them after years of war in the East African nation.

FPENS has been managing schools here since the country fell into anarchy in 1991 with the outbreak of the Somali Civil War, when there had been no central government control over the country.

According to Shadeq, 78 schools in north and northeastern parts of the capital were closed because of the daily armed confrontations between Al-Shabaab and forces loyal to the government in those areas since mid-2009.

"Another big problem is that so many schools were destroyed by the wars and they need to be rebuilt. There are some schools that were reopened but are partly destroyed," Sadeq said in a telephone interview.

In addition to violence and related hardship, Somalia was also the hardest hit by the drought in the Horn of Africa. The United Nations declared famine in parts of southern Somalia.

Mujama Umul Qura, the largest school in this district with a capacity for 6,000 students was the first school to open its doors in October. But only a few students are enrolled here.

"At least 20 percent of our 6,000 students are currently here. We hope that all students will restart their education by January," the school's principal Sheik Hassan Mohamed Ahmed says.

In a reflection of the growing complexity of Somalia society, Somali Education Minister Ahmed Aideed Ibrahim says his agency is currently attempting to combine the different curriculums being taught at Somali schools into one unified syllabus.

"We are in consultations with experts from the former Somali Education Ministry and we are discussing ways to unite the different curriculums used in the country. We hope to reach our target within the next eight months and we are very hopeful that the country's former curriculum will once again be in place," he said.

A local mother of five says that two of her sons would have graduated from high school on January 2011 if the country's ongoing conflict had not affected their education.

"I am praying to Allah to punish Al-Shabaab in his hell, because they caused many problems for us. Praise be to Allah now we are safe and my children have returned to school," she said.


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