In Somalia, Parents Run Schools as Government Struggles

In addition to damaging Somalia’s infrastructure and economy, civil war in in the region also damaged the state’s education system — and parents have stepped in to take control.

According to a report by AllAfrica, Somalia’s longstanding conflict has left the country without any real education system. Most of the schools in Somalia are now being managed almost entirely by parents of the children and are funded by foreign non-profit organizations (NGOs).

United Nations (UN) figures show that about 40% of Somali children attend school. Pupils in Somalia are enjoying their summer holidays, but schools are open due to renovation work — a project that seems to have no end.

Principal Hassan Adawe Ahmed is running a school in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. His school was severely damaged in the civil war, and work is being done to fix the damaged rooms.

“We are currently renovating five classrooms,” Ahmed said. “Last year we got seven back in order.”

The renovation has secured money from the Somali aid group DGB (Help for All), which receives its funding from the German NGOs Caritas and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe as well as the German government.

In Somalia, the civil war spanned more than 20 years, obliterating the country’s quality of life and severely impacting its long-term future. By 2012 the situation had stabilized, and for the first time in decades the country has a legitimate government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

During that war period, Ahmed’s school has been severely damaged three times, most recently in 2011.

“After the latest attack, the roof was completely destroyed, the shutters and doors were stolen,” said Ahmed, adding that some of the classrooms have been remodeled, the benches there freshly painted. They’re making progress in the other classrooms, too. “Soon, we’ll be able to hold lessons for the pupils again,” Ahmed said.

The school, called Umulhura, currently has 600 students. According to Ahmed, there were 3,000 pupils attending classes there when there was no interference. It’s the oldest school in the town, where classes have been held for 18 years.

Maryam Saleban Abokor, a 50-year-old mother of five children, was one of the parents who took charge in the schools’ operation. She also suggested the other parents to renovate the school and start teaching.

“I came up with the idea because I watched the children around me. They were roaming the streets because after the fall of the government, the schools were closed. I was afraid that the children would become criminals if they were not busy and did not learn anything.”

Other parents followed her to found the school together 18 years ago. Everybody made a contribution; some donated money, while others helped with renovation or cleaned up after the work.

Although a government has been in place for a year, parents in Mogadishu and throughout the rest of Somalia are still working together to provide a basic education as the government grows into its role.