- In the absence of central government in Somalia for over one decade, there has been close to no ordinary school service. The result is that an estimated 81 percent of Somalia's population now is illiterate and only 17 percent of Somali children go to school.
According to the recently published 'Somalia Socio-Economic Survey' - the first study of socio-economic conditions in the country in over two decades - education has been the principal victim of the civil war and lack of government in the country.
Only one in four men and 13 percent of women are literate in today's Somalia. A total of 81 percent of Somalis can neither read nor write. And these disastrous numbers are not to change within short.
Somalia has one of the lowest school enrolment rates in Africa. The overall primary school enrolment rate was estimated to be as low as 16.9 percent for Somalia; 20.8 percent for boys and 12.7 percent for girls. In future generations, therefore, the literacy rate will be even lower.
The primary school enrolment survey undertaken by UNICEF had estimated the number of pupils enrolled in grades 1-8 as 286,808 consisting of 64 percent boys and 36 percent girls for 2002. These enrolment figures were thus used to estimate the overall primary school enrolment rates for boys and girls with the estimated population for the corresponding age groups.
While the state infrastructure of educational services has been close to exterminated, many children can however still count on Islamic charity organisations and their Koranic schools. These are still "widespread and affordable," according to the survey.
Koranic schools focus on the learning of the Koran and to some extent the Arabic language. "They are low cost institutions organised and managed with community support," the survey found. However, "most of them function under temporary shelters or under the shade of trees," and they usually do not include literacy training.
The average distance to a Koranic school was estimated as about a quarter of a kilometre for both urban and non-urban areas. The average distance to a primary school, when existing, was observed to be about three quarters of a kilometre. The distance was only marginally less for rural and nomadic areas compared to urban.
- Moreover, the distance refers to only about 48 percent of the rural and nomadic households compared to 93.8 percent of the urban households who reported availability of primary schools, the socio-economic survey said.
According to the survey, "there are no secondary schools in rural and nomadic areas." Further, availability of vocational training facilities had reported by 15.7 percent of the urban population compared to 1.9 percent amongst the rural and nomadic population.
- The mere existence of educational facilities does not however guarantee that they are accessible, commented the study. "Prevailing insecurity conditions in many urban areas in central and southern Somalia affect accessibility."
Further contributing to the very low enrolment rate was also the fact that an estimated 25 percent of Somali children ages 5 to 14 have to work to help their families get by, according to the survey.
The majority of the Somali respondents to the survey had confirmed that the available educational facilities were affordable. "However, this reflects the perception of the general respondents rather than that of actual or potential users alone," commented the survey.
The World Bank and the UN's development agency (UNDP) had prepared the report, based on a nationwide household survey, which was released earlier this week. The survey found that 43 percent of Somalis live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than a US dollar a day.
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