The boundless potential of girls: From domestic work to top of the class in Somalia 

By Alinor Osman 

Farah was 12 years old before she stepped into a classroom as a student. Farah’s family had not been able to afford the fees to send her and her older brothers to school.  

Her mother learned about Bar ama Baro’s free accelerated basic education program and eagerly went to their local school in Mogadishu to enroll her sons, hoping to set them on a path to a brighter future. Mr. Hassan, the school’s headteacher, asked if she had any daughters.  

After she told him that Farah had been left to manage household responsibilities, Mr. Hassan had a conversation with her about the value of educating girls. Farah began in the same class as her brothers the next day. 

Bar ama Baro, meaning “Teach or Learn” in English, is an accelerated education program implemented by USAID in Somalia in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education and Federal Member States’ Ministries of Education. The program expands access to quality accelerated basic education for out-of-school children to advance the government’s vision of ensuring all Somali children have access to quality education.  

Economic pressures force parents into difficult choices in resource-constrained environments like Somalia, and traditional gender roles and societal norms often prioritize boys’ education. Many believe that investing in their sons’ education will secure the family’s financial future. 

Accelerated basic education allows out-of-school children and youth to complete the eight-year primary cycle in four years and then transition into the formal school system or earn a government recognized certificate. Bar ama Baro has reached over 100,000 children in Somalia to date.  

Photo by: Ismail Abdihakim

Farah took her opportunity seriously and stood out in class as one of the most engaged students. She made up for lost time and scored the highest in her class during the midterm exams. 

“Seeing my daughter achieve first place in her class fills my heart with pride and joy,” says Farah’s mother. “Her determination, hard work and dedication have not only yielded outstanding results but have also showcased the boundless potential of girls.” Mr. Hassan also praised Farah’s commitment, discipline and efforts.  

“From the start, Farah displayed a strong passion for education and consistently led the way in answering questions,” he says. “I firmly believe in equal educational opportunities for both girls and boys because education is a fundamental human right. This is why I continually encourage parents to provide their daughters with similar opportunities and allow them to attend school.” 

Farah hopes to use her education to help others. “I enjoy all the subjects, but English and math are my two favorites, and I aspire to become a teacher one day so I can educate children from underprivileged families,” she says. 

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