Opportunities for female teachers in Puntland
By Woki Munyui, Education Specialist, UNICEF Somalia
Bossaso Public school is one of the best secondary schools in Puntland of north eastern Somalia. However, out of 1,000 students only some 200 are girls.
“Traditional practices like early marriage, negative attitude towards girls’ education, preference for boys over girls in education where resources are limited and gender roles at home where girls have lots of chores influence girls’ participation in education,” says Said Osman Aden, Head Teacher of the school.
“The greatest challenge however is financial. If we solve the cost of education, enrolment will increase. Most parents are poor and often prefer paying school fees for their sons where they have to choose,” adds Mr Aden.
Mr Said's school charges USD 15 per month and, as there are nine school months a year, the annual fees are around USD 140. A total of USD 560 will see a girl through secondary education with additional resources for the very poor to help with learning materials and basic support.
Of the few girls who enrol in secondary education in this particular school, only 30 per cent complete Form Four. This is attributed to various factors both in and out of school. Once girls fail to perform well, they are easily discouraged and suffer from low self-esteem. This is most evident amongst girls who enrol late, and are who are over age for their current class and then drop out.
Female teachers are few and in some cases completely lacking in the secondary schools’ teaching force. In this particular school there are only two female teachers out of a total of 30. Coupled with this, girls do not voluntarily seek support from them.
According to the Head Teacher, girls who graduate from the school do not want to train as teachers, citing low salaries in the teaching profession. To address this, the East Africa University in Puntland offers free training in teacher education for girls. According to the President of the University, this has not completely solved the issue, as most education graduates seek employment in other sectors rather than teaching.
In spite of the on-going social mobilisation and policy advocacy for girls’ education by the Ministry of Education, more is needed. Girls’ scholarships are a guaranteed strategy of ensuring increase in girls’ enrolment. A lot however needs to be done to ensure girls achieve academically, are empowered with life skills, have female role models to emulate and have desire to excel.
A Midwife in the Making
Twenty year old Warsan Mohamed is a young woman with ambitions to support her family and her community. She is currently a student at Bosaso College of Health Sciences, in Bosaso town, the second largest city in Puntland.
In her childhood, Warsan witnessed her mother struggling to make ends meet. Born in the countryside to a nomadic family, where her father rears goats for a living, Warsan was sent to Bosaso to live with her aunt so that she could pursue her education. Having excelled in her secondary school, Warsan was admitted easily to the College.
Warsan’s determination for education overcame several obstacles. She didn’t have the means to pay for her courses, nonetheless the college administrator agreed to admit her on condition that she would pay her fees within the first semester.
In spite of being the best pupil in her class, Warsan was at the point of dropping out, as she could not raise the fees required. Her classmates, who had grown fond of her, collected funds from everyone in the class and sure enough Warsan was able to pay her first semester fees.
The announcement of the Accelerated Fund for Female Participation in Education (AFPE), a fund providing scholarships for girls was a major opportunity for Warsan. As she completed her application forms, she prayed that she would be selected.
“I want to be a midwife to save Somali women from suffering and death caused by pregnancy related complications. Since childhood, I have witnessed my mother and aunties suffering,” said Warsan.
The memory of a relative who bled to death after birth was always with her. “She was bleeding and the traditional attendant could not stop the bleeding. I was horrified by the sight of blood. When we finally managed to take her to hospital, it took so long to determine her blood group. Finally this was done but it was too late, she died,” said Warsan with tears in her eyes.
Warsan is studying human anatomy, pharmacology, community health, gynaecology among other related subjects. She enjoys midwifery and gynaecology lessons best. Every day she walks for half an hour to be in class at 6.30 am.
Warsan has developed self-confidence and high self-esteem. She commands respect amongst her peers. She feels sorry for most of her friends who are not studying and looks forward to the day she will be able to support girls in her community.
It costs USD1,050 for a girl to complete a three year diploma course in nursing and midwifery. However, Warsan’s dream to be a midwife has come true through the AFPE scholarships. With funds from the European Commission, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have been implementing the project for the benefit of 184 girls across all levels of education in Puntland at a cost of USD 150,000 per academic year.