My name is Ridwan and I am from Mogadishu, Somalia. Currently, I am an Atlas Fellow (Class 26) serving at Save the Children US. I am here today to tell you about Somalia and some challenges we are facing with our education system.

Since the collapse of the central government of Somalia in 1990, the education sector has broken down which has led to the highest illiteracy amongst our population in history, particularly young girls and women. According to UNICEF, Somalia has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates for primary school-aged children – only 30% of the children in Somalia are in school and less than half of those children are girls. Furthermore, only 18% of children in rural households are in school.

A many challenges for our community to access education especially for girls and women Frist, Cultures, norms and practices marginalize women and girls. For example, “A mother’s purpose is to be a cook, laundry woman, nurturer and wife to her husband” This leads to disproportionately low access to schooling. Second, school’s location making it difficult for the most students who lived outside of the cities especially girls. For many families in the urban villages of Somalia inadequacy is a daily reality, in areas where walking is the only mode of transport. Parents can only send their girls to school if there is no fear of them security and walking a long distance from home to school.

This is why access to schools is even more difficult for girls in Somalia. For instance, when I was in primary school in 1998 my sister and I were going to our school, which is far from our own village for about 10 miles walk distance and it took us to reach the school for about 4 hours. That is why many parents would not allow her girls to go to school.

On my last year of high school my collogue and I were sitting in our village preparing the national exam, we asked ourselves what about our sisters and moms who have never got a chance to attend school and learn basic education. After discussion, we have concluded to come up with possible solution for own village to tackle the availability of school in our location.

As part of our traditions and cultures, every village in Somalia has community religious center run by community elders, which every child should attend on their childhood to teach Quran and religious practice. It is mandatory to attend this education center by everyone regardless of the gender, race and family class. The existence of this community education center was vital for our initiative to find local place for our village to start teaching the basic education for our girls and women.

The community elders have welcomed the idea and proposed to use the center on the weekends since the weekdays is only for religious education only. My collogue and I we started to volunteer to teach them basic math and writing. After few weeks the number of students enrolled by the program have tremendously increased and we need to find more volunteer to help us for educating our own people another two collogues have joined us. Until the community education center become primary education we were volunteering every weekend and dedicate our time to our community.

Finally, this community education center have helped more than 150 young girls and women to access alternative basic education in their own village.

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