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Despite chaos, private universities thrive in Somalia


Despite chaos, private universities thrive in Somalia

Strangers to Somalia’s troubled city Mogadishu could think of it as an only oasis in the midst of emptiness. It is not. There are several others of its kind.
There is the resilient Somalia University that stands along the Industrial Road in the western suburbs of Mogadishu. In 2005, owners of the academic institution threw out caution to the winds to invest in the providing university education in the bullet-scarred city.
Since the fall of Siad Barre’s authority in January 1991, Mogadishu has been a battleground, with pro-government forces fighting with rebels determined to topple country’s governments. The instability pushed many Somalis out of school, both at the basic and university levels. A few found spaces in Kenyan schools; others who could afford it flew abroad further their education, a dear sacrifice indeed.
Job market
But some determined Somali academics have been trying to keep learning going on at home; introducing education institutions even in difficult areas.
Established in 2005, the University of Somalia is gearing to release graduates onto the job market, not just for the Somalia economy but the rest of the world too.
Last weekend, the institution hosted dozens of guests at its premises. This was to re-energise the students as they prepare to sit exams, and to showcase the institution’s academic offerings.
“The University of Somalia represents a new generation of universities. It draws from the past and designs the future. But it lives and breathes in the present,” said Dr Yahye Ali Ibrahim who is the institution’s head. The scholar believes that this is one of the institutions that will re-engineer the country.
The investors
Currently, the private university is in the hands of Somalis in the Diaspora, both in terms of administration and financing.
It draws most of its students from the southern and central regions of Somalia, mainly those attending schools in Mogadishu and surrounding areas.
With a student population of 1,120 pursuing different courses in the areas such as IT, medicine, and engineering among others, the institution holds the promise of being key to the country's struggle to get back to normalcy. There are about 30 permanent and temporary lecturers.
According to Dr Ibrahim, most of the lecturers at Somalia University are Somali intellectuals who have returned from abroad to serve their own. Many of them teach in more than one university to spread their knowledge to a bigger population.
Despite violence, regular confrontations with militias, landmine explosions and even direct threats to academics, Mogadishu hosts the biggest number of private universities in the entire Somalia.
The universities include Mogadishu University, Hamar, Indian Ocean, Banadir, Shabelle University, Somalia and Simad University. Even foreign universities like Plasma and Al-Nilayn universities offer educational services here. That is besides the distance learning courses offered by many of the institutions, local and international.
To ensure quality, there is an accreditation trust set up by the government’s Ministry of Higher Education and Culture. The body certifies all local degrees, to ensure that local graduates easily access other academic institutions around the world.
"For a long time, only well-off parents could send their children across the border to Kenya to get an education. For poor families like mine, this was not possible," said a Somalia student quoted by Irin, a UN humanitarian news agency that has a strong presence in Somalia.
Earlier before chaos broke out in Somalia, university education had blossomed. The first university in the country was set up by the Italians in 1954 as a satellite campus of the University of Rome.
Post-colonial Somalia retained the university, with students taking a two year course in the country and another two years' instalment in Rome. After the 1969 mutiny that directed the country towards the East, the university was nationalised and renamed to National University of Somalia. It was funded and administered by government organs.
When civil war later broke out, teaching was disrupted, and the university changed status to a private university. It was even renamed Mogadishu University, ushering in an era of privateuniversities in the country, without government involvement.
Despite chaos, private universities thrive in Somalia and some kind of education.
I would kindly appreciate the hard-workers   , still remaining in such a place for which life but not mention education can exist.


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