Somaliland appeal for help developing higher education

The president of Somaliland University of Technology in Hargeisa, capital city of the breakaway republic located on the gulf of Aden, has appealed to the international higher education community for help in strengthening universities.

Saeed Sheikh Mohamed told University World News: “The absence of proper education is contributing to a vicious cycle of unemployment and poverty, which makes Somaliland youth vulnerable to being recruited by terrorist organisations and may pose a risk to the peace and stability of the region and possibly the world.

“In response to this critical need, various universities in Somaliland were created to deal with this situation, through the use of education and innovative training techniques. Yet most of the universities did not receive any support from the international and-or Islamic community.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 and is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of that country to its east. Its other neighbours are Ethiopia and Djibouti. Because it is not recognised as an autonomous state, donors have reportedly found it difficult to provide support.

“The situation has worsened as there is a shortage of qualified human resources, from professors and lecturers to administrators. Moreover, Somaliland students are very weak in Arabic and English,” Mohamed added.

At one time, Arabic and English were recognised as two official languages of the country, but Somaliland’s 2001 constitution designated the official language to be Somali.

“Today, the majority of Somaliland students do not have the ability to read and analyse a passage in Arabic or English. Hence, students neither practise critical thinking nor are capable of writing an academic paper,” Mohamed complained.

State of universities

Out of 17 universities in Somaliland, there are only four that have their own campuses. The rest use small apartments and houses built for living in.

“The campus of the Somaliland University of Technology is the only one in the country that is designed for higher education and particularly for technical education. Yet we are short of a lot of technical education resources.”

Mohamed said that universities in Somaliland used foreign curricula and textbooks. “This situation has thrown national educational purpose into disarray. Most of Somaliland’s universities don’t have libraries, basic educational equipment required for each department, or science laboratories.

“As a result 80% of college students study business administration, mainly accounting and management, even though there is not much to count or manage because of the shattered economy of Somaliland.”

Several of Somaliland’s universities are foreign owned – from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – and some local people believe they are draining the nation’s meagre resources without delivering quality education services.

Call for help

“University education lacks serious international interventions, material-wise and human resources-wise, to salvage the nation from this trap that it is in now,” said Mohamed.

“The Somali people have delivered educational services as best they can, but have reached an impasse that they cannot go beyond using their own means."

“We would like to be part of the academic world. We are interested to work with the international community and the Arab world on educational development in Somaliland,” the university president continued.

“Thus I appeal to all the governments in the Arab world, the European Union and the United States, all international donors and all educationalists, to join forces to lay down strong foundations for the Somaliland of tomorrow,” Mohamed said.