Bringing everyone to the table: Supporting distributed leadership in Somalia’s education sector
By Nadya Karim-Shaw
Conflict, environmental disasters and displacement make it difficult to provide quality education to Somalia’s children and youth. Instability derails access to school, training educators and getting materials to students. It also destroys a community’s sense of trust and wellbeing, which are critical to building resilience and learning.
Officials across Somalia’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education are working to improve basic education services for the country’s three million out-of-school children. One of the Ministry’s flexible, age-appropriate education solutions is Bar Ama Baro (“Teach or Learn”) — an accelerated education program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The program teaches children ages 9 to 16 the skills needed to reintegrate into different stages of the formal school system or achieve Grade 8 equivalency certification. In partnership with USAID, the Ministry formulated new policies, created a streamlined curriculum, and developed a set of teacher guides and student textbooks. Over-age Somali students can now complete an eight-year primary education cycle in four years.
“This collaboration allowed for diverse perspectives and expertise to be brought together to create a well-rounded and effective curriculum [that was] led, developed and owned by Somalis,” says Mohamed Hassan Mukhtar, the Ministry’s Director of Curriculum.
Supporting the national education vision — States and Districts
Scaling the Ministry’s vision for rigorous, inclusive, student-centered accelerated education required extending the spirit of teamwork beyond the federal level to include member states and districts.
“From inception to implementation, state-level Ministries of Education officials played a critical role in the operationalization of the accelerated education program, including the validation of the Accelerated Basic Education Policy and curriculum, as well as mapping resources such as identifying available learning spaces, teachers, and students,” says Fadal Abdullahi Mursal, the Director General for the Southwest State Ministry of Education.
One effective solution was repurposing existing infrastructure and human resources. Today, across all states, accelerated classes are hosted at formal schools, supervised by the same school management committees, and taught by the same schoolteachers as a second shift. Districts have been able to rapidly provide educational access to over 100,000 out-of-school students.
“Incorporating the accelerated basic education program into the overall education system will have a great impact on improving access and outcomes,” says Abdiaziz Nur, the Ministry’s Director of Non-Formal Education.
Another impactful solution proposed by the states was expanding the roles and responsibilities of education officers. The officers previously only monitored formal schools, but now supervise accelerated basic education classes as well.
Since taking on greater ownership, the officers work in tandem with school leadership to conduct door-to-door awareness-raising campaigns and have reduced school dropouts and the number of out-of-school children in their districts.
Communities’ vital role in education
“Engaging with the community members — including elders, women, and youth groups — helped build trust and collaboration, which increased enrollment and retention of students,” says Nur Abukar Nur, a District Education Officer in Barawe.
Communities play a vibrant role in sustaining education. They have raised awareness about the accelerated basic education program and the benefits it offers, encouraging more parents to enroll their children.
From setting the course at the federal level to operationalizing the program through state ministries and bringing communities together, USAID celebrates the Somali Government’s commitment to strengthening systems that are helping ensure education for all Somali children.
With reporting by Alinor Osman and Ashley Williams