Somali National University trains teachers whose work doesn’t end in class; they should be community role models and should inspire civic responsibility
The inauguration of the Somali Federal Government in 2012 marked the departure from a transition period that spanned over a decade. As if it was in sync with the desires and aspirations with the people of Somalia, the government prioritized security and the provision of social services. Chief among the services that would be delivered was the provision of public higher education and to this end; the Somali National University was re-launched on November 14th, 2013 in an atmosphere filled with both nostalgia and a newly reaffirmed faith in the future.
One of the university’s main faculties is the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences. The faculty is primarily tasked with training teachers who are not only qualified but also well equipped to fill the void that exists in the teaching profession today. Currently the only accredited teacher-training institution in the country, the programs offered at the faculty include a two-year diploma program for primary school teachers and a four-year degree program for secondary school teachers. In addition to these programs, the faculty also offers in-service training for teachers who are already in the field.
The Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at the Somali National University is headed by Dr. Fouzia Warsame, a no non-sense academic with vast experience in the education field. Dr. Warsame, a returnee from the Diaspora, brings back a work ethic characterized by hard work and dedication; a work ethic that is reminiscent of the old Lafoole days. But perhaps the most important part about her work, and yet the most overlooked, is the value she brings to the faculty as a woman; an inspiration and a role model to aspiring female lecturers and female student-teachers.
The Faculty of Education and Social Sciences boasts some of the largest enrollments at Somali National University. This speaks to the appeal of the faculty among high school graduates. Some of the pull factors at the faculty include a diverse and competent staff, variety in programs of study and resources such as a library and science laboratory.
As part of the on-going national effort to nationalizethe teaching profession in Somalia, the Faculty of Education has developed a comprehensive course catalogue with the aim of equipping student-teachers with skills that are pertinent to 21st century teaching. The Faculty is actively engaged in the institutionalization of the teaching profession in Somalia; it is at the forefront of developing a national teacher-training curriculum, establishing criteria for teacher qualification and certification, and the provision of a platform for researchers through its research center.
A recent study of the teaching profession in the country by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies highlighted some of the major challenges facing the sector, in the process singling out lack of teaching qualifications, low salaries, and teacher shortage. The Faculty of Education, recognizing that teacher-training is a national priority has doubled down on its efforts.
Producing qualified teachers does not simply mean increasing the number of teachers available but rather developing a new kind of teachers who are able to dispense teaching duties in a post-conflict society. The aim is to have well-rounded teachers who shine in and are role models in the communities in which they teach. A particular area of focus for the Faculty is civic education. The institution hopes to produce teachers who are aware of their civic duties; teachers who
Student-teachers are exposed to curricula that invoke intellectual discussions touching on rights and responsibilities of citizens, morals and ethics, human rights and social responsibilities as well as governance.
When it comes to teacher certification, the Faculty is working closely with the Ministry of Education in developing exhaustive criteria for teacher certification and licensing. These efforts include determining credit hours, core requirements, professional training in education requirements and general education requirements. The criteria sets the credit hours required for each category.
The Faculty also endeavors to highlight issues related to teacher education and the teaching profession in the national and international arena. The most pressing issue facing the teaching profession is remuneration or lack thereof. The chief contributor to the low status associated with the teaching profession is low salaries. The absorption of graduates and their appropriate remuneration will ultimately fall on the Ministry of Education.
Despite the challenges facing the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at the Somali National University, steps are being taken every day to ensure the implementation of a viable and successful teacher training program. Somalia’s transformation from a conflict ridden country to a peaceful state within its borders and beyond depends largely on how effective its education system is. The key to achieving the Somalia we all want and imagine lies in the quality of our teachers; teachers who are capable of inspiring the next generation of Somali scientists and pioneers.
The writer is senior lecturer at the Somali National University, Faculty of Education and Social Sciences