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Guban View: Greedy private school owners are destroying Somaliland’s education system

Somaliland education system has come from a long way since the civil war in 1980’s when all learning intuitions were completely destroyed. The country’s education system has been making a slow recovery. But everybody would agree, in every indicator, Somaliland’s education system is broken and needs to be fixed and reformed. Our schools are in shambles. Many students are not learning even those who are attending private schools. In the quality of education, there is very little difference between public and private schools.

Genuine educators should have welcomed any initiatives to fix or improve our education system. But the greedy merchants— the operators or the sponsors of the private schools and their surrogates are waging a smear campaign against the Minister of Education, Mr. Osman Jama Adam’s efforts to improve our education and to hold private schools accountable.

To ensure accountability and quality of education, it is not too much for the Ministry of Education to demand from the private schools to register with the Ministry of education, so the agency could conduct a yearly evaluation of their performance, to know whether kids are learning. The parents have right to know whether their students are learning.

Ministry of Education has the oversight power on our schools, in academic performance, quality of education and compliance. They have the authority to set a uniform education system across Somaliland, including the classroom size, teacher competency, curriculum, and graduation requirements.

Last time we counted, more than six different curriculums are being taught in the private schools. Some private schools even refuse to teach our kids Somali language and literature. Some of the private schools, no inspectors from the Ministry of Education have visited on their premises.

The Ministry of Education should know the source of the some private schools, especially religious schools got their additional funding, and what is being taught in those schools. Our schools should never become a breeding ground for the narrow Wahabi interpretations of our peaceful religion or any other culture or faith that is alien to our society.

Private schools have been plagued by a litany of problems: For example, students are crammed into small classrooms of unsafe 1-3 story buildings——with limited toilets and running water. Schools lack basic supplies, teachers have little training. No physical education or activities ever took place on the ground of the private schools because there are no spaces for children to play and have fun. For additional fee of $10-20 a month, students are transported into unsafe vehicles on the potholed plagued streets of our towns, and driven by reckless drivers, which led to a multiple fatalities.

These are some of the disturbing stories that we hear every day from across Somaliland about kids attending the so called private schools: Kids were send them back to home because parents were late paying schools fees or were unable to buy textbooks. Kids were denied foods because they do not have money for lunch, and other horrible stories. Kids are required to pay fees to take routine quizzes or monthly exams.

Many of the private schools are being managed people with no educational background. Some of the owners do care less about whether children learn. Instead, they’re only interested to make money at the expense of struggling Somaliland parents. Parents that can barely afford to send their kids to private schools. In fact, the schools have become a cash cow for unscrupulous school operators.

This is a sham, and the Ministry of Education should put a cap on private school fees, and should also shutdown any non-performing schools.

There are also serious allegations about sexual abuses or even rapes against girls that have taken place in some private schools. The schools have failed to report to the Ministry of Education or the police for investigation on the allege crimes.

Cheating on the national exam and other assessment tests is commonplace and many instances kept blind eye or condoned by teachers and principals.

The sponsors of the private schools should know that success in learning is more than test scores or giving away expensive gifts to students.

Ministry of Education should also address the plight of the public schools and the equalization of learning outcomes. Since 90% of students attend public schools, the Bihi administration and Ministry of Education should put more resources on improving public schools such as  increasing teachers salary and training, filling teacher vacancies with an unemployed youth with bachelor degree, renovating schools to make sure schools are safe for children to learn. It’s very sad in our country that janitors are making more money than teachers. More importantly, the Ministry of Education should pay more allowances for working in rural areas, and should provide schools educational materials such as textbooks and computers.

But all those would require more money. One way to raise money for education funding is for the government to levy more taxes on communications and money transfer sector , which pay little or no taxes. Government should auction the cellular bandwidth in our air space for our crumbling schools. For instance, why Somtel or Telesom, which is subsidiary of a Mogadishu based Hormuud Telecom, should use our air space for free? We should also ask UAE money for the lease of Berbera base

Somaliland children have a right to get a good education. That responsibility belongs to the Ministry of Education. The families should not have to make a choice between sending a child to a school or putting a food on the table and housing.

We should make every effort not to deny for those struggling families to send their children to a school for just being a poor, living in rural, or being a female. Because education is not only vehicle children could escape from poverty, but could also lead them into a better future. In a country where a  fewer  than one third of all  primary age kids attend schools, Somaliland government should take every measure to make sure that every child to have a chance to learn and grow.

Ali-Guban Mohamed
Editor, Gubanmedia.com
Covering the Horn of Africa Region
aliadm18@gmail.com