2011 Somalia: The Integrated Quranic Schools Pilot Project: The Strategic Partnership for Recovery and Development of Education in Somalia
Author: Anil Khamis
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This evaluation on the Integrated Quranic Schools (IQS) Pilot Project was commissioned by UNICEF Somalia as part of an evaluation of the Strategic Partnership (SP) Initiative between UNICEF, UNESCO, and DFID for the Recovery and Development of education in Somalia.
QS have existed for a long time. Their resilience and ability to respond flexibly to changes in society, to emerging educational needs, (new) knowledge requirements, and external environments, have attracted the interests of the international community. This interest centres on this responsive nature of QS (ongoing ‘integration’ of Quranic and formal education) to promote the Millennium Development Goals (particularly MDG 2 and 3, related to the Education for All (EFA) Goals related to access to education and gender parity).
In the light of the EFA movement and its target to universalise basic education and enrol all children in school, particularly with a lull in the civil war after 1993, UNICEF considered that engagement with QS provided a ‘window of opportunity’. It commissioned a survey report in 1997 to understand the potential role of QS to meet EFA goals . The report’s findings led to a pilot project to support QS in Somaliland.
An assessment of the pilot project in 1999 showed that whilst there was great potential to meet basic education goals, the administration of the pilot project and the management capacity of the partners, particularly international and governmental authorities, created inertia . Additionally, a lack of contextual awareness and the actual parameters of the authority of the various agencies limited the full engagement of participants to contribute effectively to the pilot. For example, the Ministry of Religion and Endowments (MORE) was assumed to have the both authority as well as capability to influence educational provision in the QS. This was a misconception and thus technical inputs, such as teacher training and curriculum development, were thwarted and limited the outputs designed for this initial pilot phase.
Based on its earlier experience with QS engagement, its mandate to meet EFA goals, and the additional security agenda post 9/11 that gave renewed impetus to international community efforts centred on education, UNICEF with its partners UNESCO and the British Aid Agency DfID developed a Strategic Partnership (SP) for the Recovery and Development of Education in Somalia.
The SP initiative identified QS as a potential arena for engagement with the overarching goal ‘to enhance the effectiveness of inputs in strengthening access to basic education with the overall framework of supporting recovery and development initiatives in Somalia’. Further, the SP is aimed at ‘developing systems to support and expand both access and quality basic education whether formal or alternative’
The evaluation was conducted to determine the impact of the IQS intervention over the past three years of the SP Initiative.
The design was developed relying on the use of both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis and was mindful of limitations of working in a complex emergency situation.
Besides documentary analysis, field studies were undertaken to Puntland and Somaliland, agency, governmental and non-governmental partners were interviewed, and schools visited. School visits depended on security measures in force at the time; however, as wide a sample of schools as possible was selected to determine the differential impact in a host of contexts in the two regions.
Findings and Conclusions:
The findings of the evaluation indicate that the IQS model supported by UNICEF (i) builds on a widespread move towards integrating Quranic education along delivery of basic education in Somalia; (ii) is highly welcome and supported by local communities; (iii) has initiated a dialogue in the context of relevancy and quality of education; and (iv) has the ability to develop into a coherent model of schooling that is in keeping with the aspirations of a vast majority of the population.
The findings also indicate that the full potential of the pilot to impact on (i) access by a larger number of students and (ii) develop a robust policy framework have been mitigated by the perceived sensitivities of intervening in indigenous education and lack of understanding of what is transacted in Quran schools.
The report concludes with seven recommendations:
The first recommendation is for the international community to continue its engagement to develop the IQS model of schooling more cogently. If UNICEF withdraws from IQS, an element of trust will be forfeited.
The second recommendation is that international agency staff involved directly with IQS should have deeper understanding of education in Muslim communities and particularly to understand what is transacted in Quran schools, which is very different from their characterisation and perception in the documentation.
The third recommendation is that a dialogue be established, under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments (MORE) and the Ministry of Education (MOE), with the many providers of integrated schooling. This dialogue should build on a thorough school mapping and updated survey of QS in the region. The dialogue should aim at developing a coherent understanding of the rights of all children to access schooling and developing an inclusive model to engage the stakeholders.
The fourth recommendation is to seek ways to involve the student voice in further enhancement of the IQS, particularly with the aim to create school development plans.
The fifth recommendation is, with the aid of all stakeholders including the children, to move IQS curricular provision beyond the parallel provision of Quran and basic education. This requires study and engagement of local (and international) scholars of education in Muslim communities, the religious leadership, and the MORE and MOE leadership.
The sixth recommendation is that classroom observation schedules be developed in line with teacher training programmes to determine (i) the efficacy of the training to impact positively on classroom teaching-learning approaches and (ii) to develop follow-up training programmes for teachers to support their efforts to improve pedagogy and to determine areas of actual need in the schools.
The seventh recommendation is to undertake a school and village mapping to determine the numbers of out of school children in the catchment area of the IQS to promote greater and more equitable access to schooling. That is, UNICEF support to be a catalytic function to encourage greater community and stakeholder responsibility and to enhance sustainability of the IQS model.
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