The start of this school year in Somalia marks the first time since the civil war broke out in 1991 that the government has issued a new curriculum for primary and secondary school students.
As clan warlords battled each other and armed factions rose and fell, schools had to make do with whatever materials came to hand.
More than 40 curricula were used across Somalia, creating chaos as in the education systems served in a variety of languages, the government said.
Since August, schools have synchronized academic terms, the ministry of education said.
“This new syllabus is better than the old Kenyan syllabus, which was in English. The new curriculum is the best,” one year seven learner said. sitting three-abreast at a desk in his maths and physics class.
Somalia has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates, with only four out of 10 children in school, according to UNESCO.
Education accounted for $16mn out of this year’s budget of $344mn, said UNESCO.
Schools sourced textbooks from more than 10 countries during the civil war and English and Arabic replaced Somali as the language of instruction.
The new books cover English, Arabic, Somali, maths, Islamic studies, science, physical education, technology, and social studies.
“Students have coped well with the new curriculum because it is based on their religion, culture and vernacular,” said teacher, Abdulkadir Mohamed Sheikh.
Religious education is particularly important, said State Minister of Higher Education And Culture Abdirahman Mohamed Abdulle.
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency also regularly carries out deadly bombing attacks in Somalia in a bid to impose its own strict version of Islamic law.
The government hopes the new textbooks will help counter their message.
Clerics helped the government train teachers in Islamic ethics and create a syllabus that “will produce students who are sound, who are free from terror ideology, moderate students who have Islamic knowledge as well as other subjects,” Abdulle said.
However, challenges remain. Only 22% of Somalia’s 30,000 teachers are certified, Abdulle said.