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Somalia has a long history of community-based education: mobilized communities rebuilt schools and started classes, often with diaspora support, following the collapse of the national education system during the prolonged conflict experienced at the end of the 20th century. While many communities invested substantial resources in education – as demonstrated by the fact that 93% of the students are enrolled in community-owned and private schools (Ministry of Education, Education Sector Analysis, 2012-16) – major inequities persist. In rural and remote areas, service provision remains extremely limited, particularly at post-primary levels. The gross enrollment rate at secondary level is only 16% for girls (Federal Republic of Somalia, Education Statistics Yearbook 2013-14), but mostly restricted to urban areas. While enrollment has systematically increased during the last decade, particularly in Somaliland and Puntland, this initiative's longitudinal study indicated that absenteeism is rife, with 31% of the girls having missed three or more months of schooling. Seasonal absenteeism, linked to pastoralist activities and conflict, is a major barrier for learning and retention.
This panel will discuss the process of strengthening quality and inclusiveness in community-based education processes, while also working with communities and state/ district governments to progressively expand service provision up to secondary level. It is based on the results of an initiative currently being implemented (2013-21) in 170 schools across Somalia in close partnership with local communities. This initiative is implementing an approach originally developed in Somalia and progressively refined to cater to shifts in education needs resulting from the evolution of the context faced by targeted communities.
The model originally focused on strengthening community education committees (CECs), a recognized local governance structure for education service provision and management. As access increased across the country, as part of the push for Education for All, this initiative was developed to support community structures to improve quality and equality on pace with increased access, and to boost transition into upper grades. The revised model equipped community groups with the skills to track attendance and retention, and worked with them to set up quality standards for management of community education services; worked with community advocates to address social and gender norms that barred adolescent girls from remaining in school upon reaching puberty; trained local teachers on content and equitable classroom management; and mobilized female students to form Empowerment Groups, which analyzed the causes of dropout and poor performance among their peers and took action to create support networks to improve learning and retention. The model worked in a synchronized manner at the community, district and central levels, strengthening communication between community groups and central / district level education management structures, and generating a positive environment for better understanding of local needs and central management responsibilities and standards.
The model contributed to an increase of 14 percentage points in literacy skills (19 percentage points in reading comprehension) among female students in targeted schools. While virtually none of the schools had complete attendance records at the baseline and most CECs did not understand the relevance of tracking attendance, 58% of the schools had complete attendance records after three years of the intervention, despite major setbacks such as recurrent episodes of conflict in targeted areas and displacement due to severe drought. Enrolment increased by 17 percentage points between 2013-16; despite soaring enrolment numbers, mostly due to the enrolment of extremely marginalized children, such as pastoralists, community groups were able to respond to the shifting needs of the students and to adapt service provision to increase quality levels.
Based on this experience and on emerging input from communities and government partners, the model is being adapted to include the provision of a community-led accelerated education course for students who complete primary school, but are unable to transfer to distant secondary schools. CECs are working with the initiative to mobilize primary graduates and qualified community facilitators to engage in the accelerated course, which will provide participants with a combination of academic skills and vocational skills, including financial literacy and business management. The approach will leverage existing interventions at community level for financial empowerment, linking adult participants and adolescents. It is expected that this approach, and the emerging results from its implementation, will inform the development of the non-formal education sector in Somalia and of alternatives to provide education services to a growing number of primary graduates who lack basic skills for employment/ self-employment and have no opportunities to attend regular secondary education.