Oct 25, 2010

Somaliland: Reaping Benefits That Cross Borders

Stability is helping Somalilanders to build a strong civil society and an open and growing education system but success is also placing more and more demands on a meagre resource base


Below is an article published by IRIN:

Somalis from south-central Somalia and those in the diaspora have taken advantage of the stable environment in the self-declared republic of Somaliland to put their children through school there, boosting enrolment in private and public education institutions in the region, officials said.

"About 10 percent of 200,000 primary-school children are from south-central Somalia," Ali Mohamed Ali, the director-general of Somaliland's Education Ministry, told IRIN.

Authorities in Somaliland allow Somalis from south-central Somalia access to public services such as healthcare and education, despite considering them as refugees.

Ali said: "The late president of Somaliland [Mohamed Ibrahim Egal] said all Somalis, wherever they are from, have similar rights as Somalilanders, except political rights. It is not only the Somalis who are in our public schools; we have students even from the Oromo community of Ethiopia."

Abdi-Rahman Mohamed Mal, the former education director-general, said Somaliland's 392 public primary schools had only 2,367 teachers, with 40 percent of Somaliland children having access to education.

Mohamed Ali Warsame, 14, originally from south-central Somalia, is a beneficiary of Somaliland's generosity. He is a student at a boarding school, Abaarso-Tech, 23km northwest of Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital.

Warsame's school is one of two high schools in the region approved by the Somaliland National Examinations Board to admit intermediate school leavers. The two schools admit only students who attained the highest marks in their intermediate examinations. Each admits at least 50 students per year.

Civil society organizations estimate that half a million Somalis have sought refuge in Somaliland in the past 19 years.

"At least 300,000 Somalis from south-central Somalia live in centres for the internally displaced in Somaliland while about 200,000 others live in Somaliland's main urban centres," Saleban Ismail Bulale, chairman of the Horn of Africa Human Rights Watch, said.

In addition to south-central Somalis, hundreds of those in the diaspora have also taken their children to Somaliland in search of education and cultural experiences.

Khalif Abdi, an American Somali studying at Abaarso-Tech, said: "One of the interesting things I am learning about here is 'Laxoox' [Somali pancakes]. I am also learning the Somali language because I have to converse with fellow students in Somali.

Abdi said his parents sent him to Abaarso-Tech not only for the education but also to learn about Somali culture.

Jonathan Starr, managing director of Abaarso Tech, told IRIN: "We have students here from Europe, Ethiopia and from [the rest of] Somalia; once they pass the entry examination, we admit them to the school."

With the high number of diaspora returnees and those from south-central Somalia, however, Somaliland authorities have expressed concern over stretching public service resources.

Ali, the education director-general, said: "International donors support Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti for hosting Somali refugees but the problem in Somaliland is that the international community does not consider the problems caused by the high number of diaspora returnees and refugees from Somalia... this has limited the provision of education, health and public service as a whole; already Somalilanders themselves do not have adequate public services."

He urged the international community to support Somaliland to improve its public services, including the provision of teacher training and improving schools of technology.