Feature: Somali National University back on feet from civil war
More than two decades after it closed doors due to break out of civil war and disintegration of the state, the Somali National University is back on its feet and determined to reclaim its position as the premier institution of higher learning in Somalia.
The university, which re-opened in 2014 following the flushing out of Al-Shabaab extremist militants from Mogadishu, now has a student population of 755. It has six faculties and a team of masters and PhD holders who steer the academic and administrative functions.
The faculties include Education and Social Science, Health Science, Economics and Management Science, Law, Agriculture and Veterinary and Animal Husbandry.
The university’s rector, Professor Mohamed Ahmed Jimale, told Xinhua in a recent interview that Somali National University (SNU) is fast resuming its position as the source of qualified human resource and research as well as a driver of change in the country.
“The aim of this university is to develop skilled professionals who can design and implement development programs for the rebuilding of the nuova Somalia (the new Somalia),” said Jimale.
He said given Somalia is a largely agricultural and livestock driven economy, the university is keen on training professionals in agriculture, animal husbandry and economists.
With a strong teaching fraternity, most of whom acquired higher education in China through scholarship programs, the rector says SNU is poised to offer tuition free quality education while at the same time contribute to peace and state building.
“The number of enrolment increased a lot because many young people that cannot afford to pay the tuition fee for private universities find a good chance here at SNU, the only public and tuition free university,” he said.
Access to university education still remains a big challenge in Somalia since most of the secondary school graduates cannot afford private university education, a scenario Jimale says pushes the youth to illegal activities out of desperation.
But SNU, Jimale said, aims to reverse this trend by scrapping tuition fees.
“I believe that the revival and the expansion of Somali National University will contribute to the security, peace and the stability because a large number of desperate youth that now have no access to the higher education, because of economic reason, will access to higher education and that will strengthen their hope to a prosperous future,” he added.
Chinese ambassador to Somalia Wei Hongtian, himself alumni of the university with a fluency in Somali language, has played a critical role in facilitating scholarships and providing equipment to the university.
Through this, Jimale said China is contributing in building the country’s human resource and ensuring peace and stability.
“We believe that the Ambassador is doing his best for granting Masters and PhD scholarships for the lecturers of our university. Also, the ambassador is helping our university in other areas such as donating teaching aid materials, furniture and other useful and necessary equipment,” said Jimale.
Before its closure in the early 1990s, SNU had a student population of 15,672, with about 700 academic and non-academic staff, and consisted of 13 faculties.
But the university is determined to grow even beyond these numbers. Jimale said they intended to set up campuses in regional federal states such as Puntland, Jubbaland and Somaliland.
He said the introduction of the centralized grade 12 exam system and subsequently universal free primary school under the “Go to School” program, was re-institutionalizing formal education in Somalia.