Two weeks ago, a group of 200 high school students from different schools in Mogadishu was asked about their preferences toward higher education. One hundred and fifty-five out of the two hundred (77.5%) preferred to study in a foreign country. When they were asked to rank the reason for their preferences, 68% ranked quality as their number one reason for studying abroad. This is quite shocking, indeed.
Education in Somalia has been disrupted by the two-plus-decade civil war. Not only did the roots of education plummet, but also the quality standard on which education had been built came to a complete halt. However, some entrepreneurs sensed a business opportunity in the deterioration of education; thus introducing names that never existed before the civil war. From 1994 to today, both basic and high education has been growing rapidly. The common denominator across educational institutions in the country became “profit”.
Expectably, the focus for profit took the system of education in a new direction. So many institutions are being established for the purpose of generating income. Timothy Maburi, a Kenyan educational consultant at one of the universities in Somalia, hinted that the education sector was taken over by businesspeople with profit-making focus. Today, “higher education in Somalia is experiencing a boom in both structural setups and competition” Mr. Maburi insisted.
According to a recent study by The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), there are now close to 50 higher education institutions of different sizes and capacities functioning across the country. These institutions attracted an estimate of over 50,000 enrolments. Besides, educational chains, yet unregulated with different curricula systems, are exponentially producing students, stacking the unemployment line.
Various universities are currently operating in Somalia with no formal authority to regulate, and the current FG is excessively behind its expected role to regulate education. It is clear, at least for now, that the relationship between the government and private education is unable to provide with the means of cooperation for the common wealth of all. The government is talking from behind bars and security fences, while private institutions are avoiding capitulation to government dreams.
Despite this proliferation of education institutions, one major concern is indeed widespread. This concern is directed to schemes like quality, service performance, employability skills, and excellent educational standards. This is due to the absence of regulatory authority that can provide an oversight mechanism, leadership roles, basic structures and facilities, and unified course structures.
While Somalia is experiencing a commercialized education system, compromises about quality met less argument. The skill deficit in the education is highly felt in the employment market, killing the notion that the economy could be rebuilt with skilled workforce. “Because education has highly been commercialized across the nation, service providers are still reluctant to guarantee quality”, Ahmed Mohamed Yusuf, a higher education expert, put it.
Even though the government was pressured by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to train qualified and competent workforce for the Somali economy to spur growth, there are not signs that seem to address that issue thus far.
Currently, there are eminent challenges for the government. The foremost of these challenges is quality. This was extricated by the Ministry of Higher Education’s incapacity to deliver much stronger and enough resources in establishing regulatory authorities that can set
forth a negotiation platform. Critics hold that the government has to ensure quality standard in the education with or without regulatory authority.
Lack of approved educational curriculum across Somalia is another key challenge facing the education system. This paves the way for getting a sizeable number of high school graduates head for foreign countries for their first degrees. We should have provided this for our own sake. In fact, hundreds of students taking their money with them to a foreign institution is quite damaging to the local economy.
In summary, unless the government puts a responsible hand on what the youth are learning, quality assurance in the education system will re elusive and questionable, leading to an uncontrollable continuance of suffering. To put curb on this, in short, far-reaching educational policies and an empowered oversight are quite necessary. A no apology policy will do the work.
Abdiqani Y. Farah
Author of “Key to Preparing University Assignments”