Somaliland Education Policy isn’t Catering for the Country

Students in Somaliland might spend an extended period out of school once adjustments to the school year Calender 2020-21 are adapted


While having in mind for some time now to comment on the Somaliland Education Policy, I stumbled upon this open letter to the Minister of Education, which heightened my concern. 

As education plays an important role in the life of the individual and in the society, as well as in the development and progress of each country, the Education Policy must be designed in a way that it can efficiently guide the education system and its basic components to cater for the needs in the country.

Particularly the current policy in place for the tertiary level education is not in line with the basic priorities of both the society and the nation. It has only created a booming market for foreign teachers and professors and depleted the pockets of Somaliland students and their parents without preparing them neither for work nor for life as expected. 

The primary school attendance for the school age children in Somaliland is less than 50% (49% and 40% for boys and girls respectively). There it is clear that the majority of school age children are outside the fence of the education system. As  the overall situation of school-age children is gloomy, what is even troubling is the country’s education policy does not serve well for those in the schooling system either.

Out of 250,000 children in the school system in Somaliland – a figure provided recently by UNICEFthe largest number attend the primary and secondary public schools in which all classes are taught in Somali language. The picture of the private sector schools is not either different at all, even though the textbooks they use are written in English and a period of an English language is taught, because all classes are explained in detail in Somali. In short, all students in Somaliland, whether in public or in private schools, receive their classroom education in the Somali language.

It is not unusual but rather a common practice and an obligation to provide instruction in the classroom setting in your own native language, in this case Somali, from the primary all the way to tertiary education. In most countries in the world and in our region as well, education instructed in local languages are prioritized and preferred over the one conducted in any other foreign language. Many countries in the developed and developing world, whose people are mostly educated and involved in their countries’ development, have done so mainly due to the fact of receiving education in their native languages such as Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, India and many more.

The Minister of Education and Science of Somaliland, Hon. Ahmed Mohamed Diriye (Toorno) said recently that from August 29, the country will ban public and private primary schools from conducting class instructions in foreign languages other than Somali. He added that private schools that instruct in a foreign language would lose their government license, and public schools that do the same would be prosecuted. 

The Minister’s remarks are based on a recent decision by his ministry to provide primary and intermediate education in Somali language while that of high school has to be conducted  in English, without considering any transitional period for the policy change. This is an indication of the ministry’s   indifference and incompetency when it comes to the policy changes that would have a sweeping changes over the schools in the country. Such change cannot be adapted so quickly within weeks when the text books have to be changed as wells as the teachers to be trained to conduct classes in the English language. Definitely, there is a smell of politics in this hasty move.

The minister definitely is unaware of the fact that there is no single university or a skill institute in the country that offers educational contents and instructions in the class settings in Somali. 

There is a gap and disconnect between K-12 education and higher education in Somaliland. 

How can students, who completed their primary and secondary education in Somali and have not been taught English as a second language at all, go to the universities where content instruction in all classes is in an English language? Even there is no single higher education institution offering crush and makeup courses of English language classes for the students to improve their language understanding skills before officially attending university credit classes.

All of the higher education institutions that exist and operate in the country instruct classes in English only, while the artery – the primary and secondary schools – feeding them are taught in Somali.  (Sheikh School)

Somaliland University of Technology in Hargeisa

University of Hargeisa in Hargeisa

Gollis University in Hargeisa

Amoud University in Borame

Nugaal University in Las Anod

Burao University in Burao

Admas University in Hargeisa

Adna Hospital University in Hargeisa

Eelo University in Borame

Hope University in Hargeisa

Adal Medical University in Borame

Beder International University in Borame

Horn International University in Borame

Timacade University in Gabiley

Frantz Fanon University in Hargeisa

Alpha University College in Hargeisa

Addis Ababa Medical University College in Hargeisa

New Generation University College in Hargeisa

Mount Kenya University – Hargeisa Campus

Shifa Medical University in Hargeisa

Rift Valley University in Hargeisa

Bubal Dental University College in Hargeisa

Jumma University – Hargeisa Campus

Sheikh Technical Veterinary School in Sheikh

Times Higher Education, one of the world’s leading providers of higher education data, ranks annually the global universities in their performance in four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. It just released World University Rankings 2021

Knowledge transfer is one of the basic pillars that universities are built on, and without it, students are not gaining any knowledge whatsoever other than losing money and time.

Consequences of this for Somaliland include the recruitment of foreign professors to fill in the gap and tuition fees that are beyond the reach of students – which in turn becomes another obstacle to the pursuit of higher education.  Yet, further setback of this policy is that even those who can afford paying the skyrocketing tuition fees have no desire to go to university because of language barrier. Hence, a great number of creative, talented, and innovative students would be left behind. It also compounds the problem of youth unemployment as the education system is not producing the skilled workforce needed.

With the help of computers and internet access: Free online English language classes resources: Khan Academy, IXL, TEDEd, EF, BBC Learning English, Voice of America’s Learning English, JenniferESL, BBC Teach

Somaliland is a fledgling country experiencing urban sprawling, rapidly growing major cities, and steady development in every sector of the economy. There is an enormous need for skills relating to hospitality services, building constructions including electricians, plumbers, and welders, allied health professions such as pharmacy technicians and nursing assistants, and all kinds of small-scale machinery technicians. These skills do not require a four-year degree from a university, but merely demand hands-on training for a few months at a skill, trade, or technical institute. This sort of institutes or schools for such skills are rare in the country. People who are skilled in these professions would  have to be brought from the neighboring countries. Somaliland has adopted, and continues to stay on that course of, an education policy that attracts immigrant workers by simply not establishing the right skill, trade, and technical institutes in the country. 

Another area where the policy has failed to address is the establishment of state-run boarding schools for the poor.. One of the government’s responsibilities include providing the poor with basic necessities and educating their children so that they can lift their families out of poverty.

The state of Somaliland’s current education policy, which does not serve the interests of students and the country, can be attributed to the lack of an appropriate oversight body and the sole control of the executive branch of government over it. Education needs an effective and efficient oversight on the part of the Somaliland legislative branch to check and correct the bad policies of the executive. In the USA both in the Senate and House of Representatives, there are sub-committees that have thorough oversight over education. With the current structure of the Somaliland parliamentary sub-committees, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) oversees the education in the country. Recently the PAC managed to meet Education Ministry officials to ask questions on the ministry’s routine operations and to ensure that the annual budget and foreign aids are used as intended, instead of focusing and scrutinizing the education policy in the country if it is delivering what it was supposed to accomplish and leading the nation to the right direction

The Ministry of Education and Science is structured in an ambitious way that is so remote from the educational needs of the country, as most of its various components are not functional and only exist on paper – becoming liabilities on the nation that only siphon budgets, which could have been utilized otherwise.  

Somaliland Education Policy isn’t Catering for the Country

It is a mind boggling to know the number of Kenyan expatriates employed in Somaliland from the hospitality industry, higher  education institutions  to the beverage bottling plants 


The neglect and inefficiency in  the Somaliland education system is obvious and unjustifiable as well, given the foreign aid it receives on top of the annual budget appropriation. Within a span of two year, it has received almost US$14 million foreign aid. Iin 2018, The Global Partnership for Education awarded Somaliland a grant of US$7.68 million.for enhancing the quality of and extending education throughout the country as well as for rehabilitating school buildings. In 2019, Education Cannot Wait provided $6.7 million to increase the access of education in Somaliland.

The nation is in dire need al least for a one state university where the classroom instruction is done in the Somali language to unchain the potential of great number of Somaliland students.

About the author:

Ahmed J Yassin


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Clinical Laboratory Professional & Advocate of Somaliland case

Currently working at UF Health Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Florida, USA