By Abdi Moalim in Mogadishu
Displaced Somali girls attend a lesson at the Manahijta elementary school in Mogadishu on March 31, 2010. [Mustafa Abdi/AFP]
An education coalition representing 1,130 private schools across Somalia has unveiled a curriculum that will serve as a blueprint for standardising primary and secondary instruction nationwide.
The organisations presented their proposed curriculum, which took three years to complete, at FPENS headquarters on May 16th, with federal government officials in attendance.
Somalia has gone without a unified national curriculum to guide educators since the fall of the Mohamed Siad Barre government in 1991.
"We used the previous national curriculum [that was in effect before the civil war] and curricula used in schools now as a reference guide and model," Mohamed Farah Ali, co-ordinator of the groups that co-wrote the curriculum, told Sabahi. "Its foundation is Islam and our good culture."
The education organisations set about creating the curriculum because schools managed by each of the seven groups followed a different curriculum and term schedule and were turning out students with varying education levels, SAFE director Abdirahman Moalim Ablal said.
"What we have prepared [is a composite of] the different curricula used by [schools] with the aim of unifying the education of Somali students," Ablal told Sabahi. "Agreeing on one curriculum will make it easier to have one examination schedule for the school term. This will also streamline the differing education levels of the students."
In addition, the curriculum keeps in mind that some schools teach in Somali, while others instruct in Arabic or English, he said, adding that this should make it easy for schools to conform to the curriculum irrespective of the language in which subjects are taught. The schools will be using the same textbooks translated in the various target languages.
Officials representing the coalition said the new curriculum would be mandatory in their schools starting in the 2013-2014 academic year, while other schools are welcome to adopt it at their discretion.
"We had no political agenda in this project and we have no intention of pressuring the government or anyone else to implement it," Ablal said.
The federal government welcomed the curriculum and praised the coalition for their initiative.
Common national values
Arabow Ibrahim Nur, acting director of the education department in the Ministry of Development and Social Affairs, said the government would evaluate the curriculum and use it as a blueprint for its own standardised curriculum.
"[The proposed curriculum] is a first step, but we want to include all the Somali people so they can add their ideas to this curriculum," he told Sabahi.
"We are creating a national education policy that will finally resolve problems related to [our] education system," he said. "We will accelerate work on the curriculum so that we succeed in getting a unified national curriculum in the coming months."
Abdullahi Ahmed Maalin, 19, a high school student in Mogadishu, said the new curriculum is a positive development that gives schools an opportunity to promote common national values.
"Whenever we meet for an educational debate, we cannot even agree on nationalism," he said, underscoring that foreign influences in education and other aspects of life since the civil war have compromised Somali ideals.
"Some of us defend Arab views, some Western and others Asian," he said. "The reason is that students have not been taught with the same goals; I mean we lack a unified national goal."
Having a curriculum developed by Somalis would foster understanding and dialogue among youths and help support Somali ideals, Maalin said.