More than one hundred Somali education experts are being hosted by the Somali Federal Government for a three day high level Conference in Mogadishu to discuss how to design an education system for the country after two decades of conflict. The National Education Conference was opened today by the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia who called it a key opportunity to provide Somali children with a brighter future.
The Conference has been organized by the Directorate of Education, Culture and Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Development and Public Services and supported by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The National Education Conference brings together high level education policy makers, planners, academics, the private sector, NGO representatives and members of civil society as well as international partners. They are discussing ways of building an education system that is participatory, inclusive and responsive to regional needs and Somali-owned.
In addressing the participants, the Prime Minister, H.E. Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid, stated emphatically that "education must be at the heart of every civilized country's agenda and Somalia is no different. Now that peace has returned to Mogadishu, we urgently need to re-establish our educational system, which has been devastated by two decades of fighting. Today is a hugely important day for Somalia. Seeing all these education experts here today makes me proud to lead a country emerging from traumatic times. I commend your devotion to improving Somali lives and I congratulate you for making this conference happen. With your help we will build a solid educational foundation in Somalia – from primary school to university - which will be the bedrock of our children's brighter futures. They deserve nothing less.”
Dr Maryan Qasim, the Minister of Human Development and Public Services, under which responsibility for education falls, asked conference participants to “identify clear goals and objectives for Somali education, building on the lessons learned already in the country” as well as to “come together in the spirit of partnership around those Somali values which unite us as a people and upon which our own distinct heritage as a nation rests.”
Dr Qasim further stated that the Ministry's aim is “to build a Somali education system that produces capable, skilled and empowered citizens who can turn Somalia into the just and prosperous nation of our dreams.”
UNESCO Representative Mohamed Djelid stressed the need “for Somalia’s education to progress along a path that Somalis decide, within a sector-wide vision supported by partners within a framework of acceptable norms and standards in education.” He added that “Somali educational authorities should expect to enjoy the same standards of educational support as in other countries.”
UNICEF Representative Sikander Khan said that previously many families could not send their children to school although many had wanted to. “With the improving security situation and renewed international commitment, Somali children finally have a chance of a proper education. They have been the innocent victims for too long and we must seize this opportunity to give all Somali children the chance to go to school. We need to create human capital through education as well as through good nutrition, health care and an end to the unacceptable number of preventable deaths of children under five. Now is the time to make the investment in the children of Somalia and its future.”
“Education can be the means for present and future generations of Somali citizens to fully participate in the reconstruction of their country,” said UN Resident Coordinator, Philippe Lazzarini. “Getting Somali children into school has the potential to be one of the most important elements of peace building that has been committed to in the New Deal. The United Nations is here to support the Somali education partners and institutions moving forward with these ambitious goals.”
The Conference concludes on Thursday 20 June 2013 with a plenary session in which all major commitments, decisions and initiatives raised during the working sessions will be summarized. The Conference will agree on a “2013 Somali Education Declaration”.
The Human Development Ministry, which has responsibility for education, has already launched a wide-ranging and ambitious Go to School Programme aimed at getting one million Somali children and young people into school, train teachers, provide classrooms and build the capacity of the relevant ministries.
The Somali education system has suffered from the years of conflict. Only four in ten children aged 6 – 12 go to primary school with far fewer in the South and Central areas. The number of girls at school is even lower. There is a dire shortage of trained teachers and a distinct lack of unified curriculum in the country.
For more information:
Susannah Price, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Somalia
sprice(at)unicef.org; +254 722 719867
Michael Croft, UNESCO Programme Coordinator
m.croft(at)unesco.org; +252 616 692 742 (Somalia) / +252 704 594 606 (Kenya)