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Somaliland gets thousands more children into school

Tens of thousands more children are going to school in Somaliland, pushing up the literacy rate from 20 per cent to 45 per cent, in the last 10 years. In Somaliland, the number of children enrolled in primary and secondary schools has risen massively since 19991, when the territory self-declared itself independent from the rest of Somalia.The semi-desert territory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden declared independence after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siad Barre in 1991. Though not internationally recognised, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, a police force and its own currency. The territory has lobbied hard to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state. "School enrolment has increased dramatically,” said Abdi Abdillahi Mohamed, director of planning in Somaliland's ministry of education. “In 1991, we had only 1,019 students enrolled in schools but by the year 2009 some 45,223 students were in school," he told the United Nations news service, IRIN.

In the school year, 2008 - 2009, about 225,853 children attended primary school and 21,331 attended secondary school, while 26,156 were in adult education. Some 6,820 students are c enrolled in technical colleges and vocational schools."We have also added two social science subjects in high school, business and agriculture, which we hope will encourage high school leavers to be self-employed," Mohammed said. Raised awareness and the building of many new primary schools have driven the surge in school enrolment, said Ali Abdi Odowa, director-general in the education ministry. "Hundreds of schools have been built both in urban and rural areas and adult education has also started," he said. By 2015, Somaliland, he said, plans to ensure that at least 75 per cent of the population can read and write

In spite of the progress, though, the education ministry had had some complaints from homeless people and people living off the land about school fees and the lack of access to schools for their children. Somaliland's constitution lays down that all primary and secondary education is free and there are no fees paid by students. But Mohammed admitted, there is what is known as contributions paid by parents to support voluntary teachers and teachers' salaries.In more cut off parts of the territory, the ministry has set up a trial project where teachers follow farming communities wherever they go and teach in mobile schools. The ministry has also started school feeding centres. Farmers’ children are fed in boarding schools in villages when their families are on the move in search of pasture."

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children