Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced Sunday the country will hire a record 3,000 new teachers to try to bridge a wide education gap. The move follows a four-fold increase in the Somali ministry of education’s budget for 2023. But critics note funding for education is still poor, and that insecurity and poverty have pushed the majority of Somali children out of school.
The New Year’s Day budget announcement by President Mohamud marked one of Somalia’s most ambitious education campaigns in years.
Mohamud said Somalia this year will hire 3,000 more teachers to address a shortage that has hindered learning.
In an interview with VOA, Somalia’s Ministry of Education Director General Mohamed Hassan says the teachers are sorely needed.
He says one thousand teachers are on the government payroll in Mogadishu and all the regional states combined for the past five years. Hassan says the ministry’s latest report shows only a quarter of school-age children have access to education.
Hassan says the new teachers will be recruited with priority given to areas of Somalia that have little access to education.
He says special opportunities will be given to districts where there are very few school students and also to areas where the Khawarij were dislodged.
Khawarij, which loosely translates as “those who deviate from the Islamic faith,” is the term Somali authorities use to refer to the Islamist militant group al-Shabab.
Mohamud last year declared all-out war on the Islamists and federal troops and their backers have since made gains in taking back territory under that was under the group’s control.
Al-Shabab-run areas of Somalia are locked out of Somalia’s formal education system, as the group imposes a curriculum based on a harsh interpretation of Islam.
President Mohamud in his New Year’s Day speech vowed to eliminate the militants in 2023.
The president last week quadrupled Somalia’s education budget this year to $34 million.
While it is the highest education budget in years, critics say it’s still far from the funding needed to instruct the country’s youth.
Suad Abdulle is the founder of the Somali Institute of Special Educational Needs and Disability. She tells VOA that poor funding is the main reason why most Somali children are failing to attend school.
Abdulle says close to 70% of children are not in school because of several factors. The first one is the lack of funding, she says, as a large percentage of Somalis are living on less than a dollar per day while most schools in the country are private.
Mohamed Osman Ali is a teacher at Faruq Primary and Secondary School in Mogadishu.
He says the increased funding, while much less than to other ministries, will still help boost education.
Ali says education in Somalia has suffered underfunding for the longest time. He says ministries such as defense and security get more than ten times what we get in the education sector. Ali says he is happy the government is now increasing funding to enable Somali children to go to school.
Access to education in Somalia remains among the lowest in the world. The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says three million Somali children are out of school.