|© UNICEF Somalia/Abdullahi|
|Schoolchildren in Somlia took part in a parade to celebrate the 'World's Biggest Lesson' in which Somali children 'taught' local leaders about the importance of giving everyone a chance to receive a quality education.|
By Denise Shepherd-Johnson
NAIROBI, Kenya, 8 May 2008 – More than 7.5 million people from over 100 countries – including Somalia – joined together to simultaneously express their feelings about the importance of education last month, as part of a unique event called the ‘World’s Biggest Lesson’.
During the event, children spoke to their local politicians and leaders, seeking a public commitment to reduce educational exclusion. Some of the topics which were 'taught' by the children included getting more girls in school and reaching marginalized youths – such as children with disabilities and those who have been displaced.
In Somalia, in particular, 70 per cent of children have missed out on a quality education as a result of issues such as poverty, gender and conflict.
“Every child must learn to read and write. Children must go back to school and parents must go visit the schools to see how their children are learning,” said the Director of Planning in the Ministry of Education in Somalia, Abdi Abdillahi.
‘End Exclusion Now!’
The ‘lesson’ was the highlight of the annual Global Action Week for Education, in line with the theme, ‘Quality Education for All: End Exclusion Now!’
By the end of the event, Somalia’s Ministry of Education had made commitments to increase school enrolment to at least 75 per cent, in addition to constructing more schools and expanding existing facilities.
The ministry also pledged to double the number of teachers on its payroll by 2011, with a view to seeing all school-age children in school and able to read and write by 2015.
Providing a platform
In Somalia, the event was supported by UNICEF along with the UK Department for International Development, the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Somalia and the Somaliland Students’ Assembly, among others.
Events like the World's Biggest Lesson are providing a much-needed platform for communities to engage with politicians and education officials, and candidly remind them that everyone has a right to education.
At 62 years of age, Sahra Ilmi – a current student in Hargeisa, Somalia – was able to demonstrate that educational inclusion also transcends age. Ms. Ilmi urged parents to return to school, saying: “It is never too late to learn. Today my children cannot cheat me. I am able to check their books.”
Catherine Remmelzwaal and Woki Munyui contributed to this story.