Somaliland Cyberspace

UNICEF Strategy for Education in Somalia

© UNICEF Somalia


Education and formal classroom learning opportunities are limited and unavailable for a majority of children in Somalia. There have been substantial increases in the number of operational schools and in enrolment rates, but considerable disparities in the quality of and access to primary education are still problematic in parts of the country because of the socio-economic, cultural and political realities.

Most existing schools are concentrated in and around urban areas and are mainly financed by fees or other forms of support from parents and communities, with some input from external agencies.

Somalia has one of the lowest primary school enrolment rates in the world.

The Survey of Primary Schools in Somalia for 2003-2004 provides valuable insights (Note: These statistics are yet to be included in the official figures that go into the State of the World's Children Report). According to the survey report, there are 1,172 operating schools with a total enrolment of over 285,574 children representing an 19.9 per cent gross enrolment ratio (GER). Data from Lower Jubba Region, El Waq district of Gedo Region and Jilib district of Middle Jubba Region was not collected as these areas were inaccessible due to floods and insecurity. This places Somalia among the lowest enrolment rates in the world.

Gender-related disparities remain an area of major concern. The survey results revealed that only slightly over one third, or 37 per cent, of pupils are girls at the lower primary school levels. Since the 2003/4 survey, there has been very little progress toward reducing the gender disparity, which increases rapidly in higher grades. Results of previous school surveys reflect the same pattern. The low enrolment and high drop-out rates of girls in most areas are due to a combination of traditional attitudes, timing of classes and economic considerations. In 2005, UNICEF is embarking on a Back to School campaign in Somalia with a view to boosting overall enrolment with special focus on girls' eduction.

Female teachers are under-represented, making up only about 13 per cent of the total number of all teachers. The sector suffers from severe managerial, technical and financial resource limitations, and a lack of consistency in standards.


UNICEF’s education programme in Somalia is comprised of two projects, one for primary formal education and the other for primary alternative education. These projects are geared towards working with children and youth both in and outside of the school system.

The Primary Formal Education Project

This project focuses on re-establishing and expanding the formal primary schooling system within Somalia, which was virtually destroyed during the years of civil war. Special focus is being placed on increasing enrolment and helping students who are returning to the classroom to retain information and advance through learning levels. These goals are especially important for Somali girls.

The Primary Alternative Education Project

Many children in Somalia missed out on regular, classroom-type education because they were displaced and because of the civil strife in their communities. This project focuses on building alternative, non-formal learning opportunities for the youth who do not have access to formal education.

UNICEF will continue to provide quality education materials to schools (both the formal and informal classroom settings), training for teachers and other education professionals, and support to community education committees. Local authorities will be helped to establish and set standards for the education system, and to develop standardized curricula and textbooks.

UNICEF works closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other members of the Somalia Aid Coordination Body’s (SACB) Education Sectoral Committee, as well as local authorities in the northern regions, and communities and related education committees.

Partnering for education

UNICEF has played a critical technical and coordination support role within the education sector. In 2003, UNICEF was elected to co-chair the SACB’s Education Sectoral Committee and in this capacity has strengthened its leadership role, and provided important networking and coordination within Somalia and with partners based in Nairobi.

This coordination is gradually strengthening at the zonal (for administrative purposes, UNICEF undertakes its work in Northwest, Northeast and Central and Southern Somalia which are also classified as zones) and regional administrative levels, where important national actors include the local authorities, communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The role of zonal level local authorities is significant in the north, but their role is limited to those districts/regions where functioning local authorities exist in Central and Southern Somalia.

The major external partners in the education sector include other United Nations agencies (specifically the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNESCO and the World Food Programme(WFP), international non-governmental organizations and donors.


UNICEF’s focus in education in Somalia is on system-wide education reforms, developing a curriculum in Somali language, textbooks, improving standards of learning, and developing Education Management Information Systems (EMIS).

The key results of these objectives include:

- Increased quality of education through providing standardized learning materials, teacher training in the use of the materials, and monitoring of teachers.

- Improved enrolment in schools through curriculum development, sensitization of teacher trainers and advisors , developing education policies in the northern zones, increased training of female teachers and work with community education committees.

- Developing alternative, Non-Formal Education (NFE) modules, including curriculum, syllabus, learners' modules and teachers' guides for literacy, numeracy, science, social studies and life skills (including HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, female genital cutting, gender and other areas) and training trainers and teachers to disseminate and use the materials.

Annual school survey

The 2003/2004 Annual Primary School Survey was conducted throughout Somalia. The data collected in this annual exercise provides a consistently updated picture of the state of primary education in the country and allows for improved planning and development of the programme. It provides a baseline from which achievements each year can be monitored and gives the latest data for use by external agencies, local education authorities, community education committees and teachers. It also contributes to the Education Management Information System database, which seeks to gather all relevant educational data to provide a hub for information on the sector.

NOTE: Statistics from the Annual Primary School Survey have not yet gone through the process of approval for inclusion in the official UNICEF statistics that appear in the State of the World's Children Report.

Primary education through formal channels

Data from the Primary Schools Survey 2003-4 (Note: The statistics from the survey are yet to be approved for inclusion in the official UNICEF statistics that go into the State of the World's Children Report) indicates that the exponential increase in the number of operational schools and in primary school enrolment rates recorded in earlier surveys continues, reflecting the gaining momentum within the education sector.

In 2004, the total number of students enrolled was 285,574,representing a 5.7 per cent increase from the previous survey. The continuing record of achievements is attributable to the efforts and commitment of national and international partners, parents and communities in circumstances which remain extremely difficult. However, considerable disparities in access to, and quality of, primary education still prevail due to the socio-economic, cultural and political realities in these areas.

Gender-related disparities are still a concern. The factors underlying the gender gap in girls’ enrolment are being analyzed by region, which will lead to the development of area-specific strategies for achieving the country programme objectives of ensuring at least a 40 per cent enrolment and participation rate for girls in all education endeavours.

The UNICEF-led reform process resulted in the finalization of new curriculum, syllabus and textbooks for six subject areas from grades one through four. These were subsequently printed and distributed to all functional schools by UNICEF and UNESCO in 2002. In 2003, UNICEF reprinted these textbooks and started their distribution to maintain the established ratio of one set of books to be shared between two children. Meanwhile UNESCO has completed, printed and distributed upper primary textbooks and teacher guides for grades 5 to 8.

Teacher in-service training conducted by UNICEF and partners in the methodologies and pedagogical aspects of the new textbooks was conducted for over 7000 teachers across Somalia. For the first time in over a decade, Somali children are benefiting from quality, contemporary textbooks and teachers trained in creating child-friendly learning environments. On-site teacher mentoring has been ongoing since 2002. The Learning Achievement Survey carried out in 2004, showed that children’s literacy and numeracy levels have improved.

For the first time in over a decade, Somali children are benefiting from quality, contemporary textbooks. Parents, teachers and communities have expressed much support for the new books, and their introduction is expected to lead to a further substantial increase in school enrolment, retention, participation and learning at the lower primary level.

Measuring education progress

The education management information system (EMIS) continues to expand in scope, with the system now fully in use in primary schools across Somalia, and starting to provide regular and reliable data. All partners have been trained in the use of standardized EMIS tools and software, ensuring that the local capacity for data aggregation, analysis and utilization at all levels (school, community, regional, zonal and national) is augmented and sustained.

School-based registers for the academic years 2000-2001, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 and 2003-2004) were supplied to all operational schools, together with re-orientation and refresher training for all education trainers and advisers.

Focusing on gender

Gender issues have received special focus in education and have been integrated into all aspects of programming, including all new education resources (such as textbooks and resource guides, non-formal education package, Community Education Committee training packages and teacher in-service training packages), and all training activities (such as for teachers, head teachers, supervisors, Community Education Committee members etc.)

In the two northern administrative zones of Northwest (Somaliland) and Northeast Somalia (Puntland), UNICEF has supported authorities in drafting gender responsive education policies that are currently being finalized for adoption by local parliaments. Serious efforts towards increasing the representation and participation of women as teacher trainers and advisers and at all levels of management are being accelerated.

UNICEF’s dual strategy of supporting the establishment, training and empowerment of Community Education Committees (CECs) for all operational schools, and assisting education authorities and partners at district, regional and zonal levels in establishing and efficiently managing schools has underpinned all education activities.

This has led to improvements in sustainability and decreased dependence on external donor support. While the local authorities have been provided with basic infrastructure and technical support, CECs have received systematic training for enhancing their motivation and capacity to support and manage schools.

Alternative channels

A study on nomadic populations recently completed by UNICEF is forming the basis for adapting the various new educational resources and methods developed for formal primary education to access nomadic children and the unreached and hardest-to-reach Somali children in the six–to-14 year age group.

Developing and implementing activities in this area is an ongoing priority for UNICEF . The development and distribution of teacher modules/teachers' guides and training teachers for non-formal education is offering alternative, non-formal educational opportunities for children and out-of-school youth.

Strengthening Quality of the Somali Education System (SQOSES) Newsletter April 2004

One of the many ways through which support is given to the Education sector in Somalia is through the European Commission-funded Strengthening Quality of the Somali Education System (SQOSES) project implemented by UNICEF and UNESCO. Attached in pdf is the April 2004 SQOSES newsletter. For further information contact Noel Ihebuzor, Head UNICEF Somalia Education Programme:

Welcome to Edition 3 of the SQOSES Newsletter.

EC – UNESCO collaboration

One of the many projects through which EC supports the Somali people is the Strengthening Quality of the Somali Education System (SQOSES) Intervention. UNICEF and UNESCO are the implementing partners in this project.

An update on SQOSES project activities

Activities are gaining momentum following logistical difficulties and an increase in insecurity throughout Somalia over the last six months.

The UNESCO component of SQOSES provides the new textbooks for Grade 5 and 6 and supplementary readers to schools in Somalia.

It further provides for the in service training of teachers in the use of the new textbooks, the conducting of Grade 8 examinations, and strengthening of services to the Somaliland Teacher Education College (STEC).

Distribution of Grade 5 textbooks

The Grade 5 textbooks of Somalia/Somaliland have been distributed and teachers and pupils have access to better learning resources at the Grade 5 level.

In-service teacher training

In order to ensure that the new learning materials for Grades 5 and 6 are better utilized in the teaching process, workshops for the Training of Trainers (TOT) in preparation for the teacher in service training in Grade 5 and 6 subjects were successfully conducted. The Bossaso TOT was conducted in March and in Hargeisa in April and May 2004. In addition, a series of further in-service workshops are scheduled during the school holidays (June-August 04) targeting over 3000 upper primary teachers.

Supplementary readers

A total of 6 readers were printed by UNESCO and have been freighted to Hargeisa, Garoe and Mogadishu from where they will be distributed along with the Grade 6 textbooks in July 2004 and integrated into the in-servicing workshops.

Grade 8 examinations

UNESCO provided financial support and technical assistance in the form of training workshops and capacity building for the preparation of the Grade 8 examinations in Somaliland, Puntland and Central-South Somalia to be held in June 2004.

UNESCO supported the Ministries of Education on the advertisements to campaign for a more general participation of Grade 8 leavers in the national Grade 8 examinations. The adverts would be announced through the mass media in Somaliland and Puntland. SACB members were also asked to encourage Grade 8 students in the schools they support to register for the common Somalia Certificate of Primary Education Examinations.

The Ministries of Education of Puntland and Somaliland each allocated premises for examination centres. Contractors were identified for their rehabilitation which will be supported by UNESCO.

The Somaliland Teacher Education College (STEC)

UNESCO supplied library resources and laboratory equipment to the Somaliland Teacher Education College and continued to support the administration and management of the college.

The Grade 6 – 8 textbooks

The pre-press work on the Grade 6 textbooks was completed and the texts are now with the printers. Meanwhile, with DFID (UK’s Department for International Development) funding, preparations are made for the finalisation of the Grade 7 and 8 textbooks in two editions.

Textbook Provision Policy

Data gathering has concluded for a study designed to provide the basis for the evolution of a Textbook Provision Policy for Somalia. The study, conducted by International Book Development (IBD), sampled a broad range of stakeholders in education including the local education authorities, parents, booksellers, printers and publishers.

The output will be a textbook provision policy for Somalia which will help in identifying roles, responsibilities and capacities of different stakeholders in the sustainable production and distribution of textbooks for teaching and learning.

A stakeholder workshop on the outcome of the study is planned for July. Key decisions on the way forward for textbook and other learning material production will follow the workshop.

Revamping Education Management Information System (EMIS)

During the second quarter of the year, UNICEF completed a revision of EMIS tools.

The modified tools contain information relevant at the school level and have been made so that they are easier to use. For instance, the revised tools have simpler methods of tracking pupil movement and gauging enrollment, daily attendance, retention and pass rates to higher grades.

They also contain a section on teacher data which will assist in knowing the number, qualification, location and movement of teachers. The revised tools and accompanying mock-ups have been presented to all partners and authorities for their suggestions and comments and are now ready for printing.

Annual School Survey

UNICEF also conducted the annual school survey during the quarter which involved a number of phases involving training of the enumerators, support to data collection in the field, and collation and analysis of the collected data in Nairobi. Data analysis has been completed that the survey report is being prepared for distribution. This year, for the first time, information on teachers’ names, qualifications, level of experience and location was collected in the Northwest and Northeast Zones. This information will form the basis of a Teacher Registration system in these areas.

The survey was completed in all operational schools in the Northeast and Northwest Zones. In the Central and Southern Zone, data collection was completed in all operational schools except in Lower Juba and Jillib, where data collection activities were hindered by insecurity.

The annual survey is instrumental in allowing education agencies to gather and maintain reliable education data to ensure appropriate planning and implementation. In addition, the preparatory processes leading to the conduct of the survey provided opportunities to build the data gathering and management capacities of educational functionaries throughout Somalia.

Support to Educational Development Centres (EDCs) in Hargeisa and Bossaso

Educational Development Centres serve as resource centres for both teachers and learners and play a major role in improving the overall quality of education. During the quarter, the EDCs in the Northeast and Northwest Zones were provided with basic support items in order to improve their capacity in vital teaching-learning support functions. Items supplied to the two centres in Bossaso and Hargeisa included furniture, shelves, photocopiers, toners, drums and stationery. Toilets were also constructed for the EDC in Hargeisa. With these in place, the EDCs are now more equipped to support educational functionaries, particularly, the school mentors, who will then in turn provide support and guidance to classroom teachers. The EDCs are now also more able to serve as venues for meetings and training workshops in their respective zones.

Mentoring support to teachers

Twenty school mentors from the Northwest Zone, 12 from the Northeast and 28 from the Central and Southern Zone continued working in 212 pilot schools with 1751 teachers during the reporting period. Reports have been positive from monitoring visits by the zonal SQOSES in-service co-coordinators and UNICEF Project Officers using monitoring tools specifically developed for the pilot schools. Among the positive feedback, reporting indicate that teachers are increasingly adopting more participatory methodologies in their classrooms. These reports also indicate that textbooks distributed through the SQOSES project are being productively used in classroom interactions and that learners are adopting more process oriented approaches in solving problems. (See attached story)

"It all adds up well - report from a visit to a SQOSES project" I took the opportunity of visits to Horsed and Kulmis schools in Johwar which I monitored during this month of February to take some photographs of actual classroom interactions.

I was excited to see a female pupil concretely explaining subtraction of a one-digit number from two digit numbers using the take away method. She subtracted 5 from 12 without "carrying" from the ones. The girl skillfully did the subtraction using a bundle of 10 sticks and two separate sticks to represent the number 12. First, she put away the two sticks and then untied the bundle of ten and further took away three sticks and placed these together with the two sticks. She then counted the remaining sticks in her hand and then shouted "seven stick are in my hand". The photograph captures the girl as she solves this problem.

The girl is in grade one at Horsed Primary School in Jowhar. In the other attachment, the teacher has set a task to the pupils and is walking round the class as the pupils are doing the exercise and providing guidance to pupils. Pupils are clearly learning, and the different SQOSES project activities are thus adding up well.