UNICEF has welcomed the handover of the Somali National University’s main campus to the Federal Government as an important step forward in expanding opportunities for youth in Somalia.
The campus had been used by different militaries, and secured by the Burundi contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as a battalion headquarters for more than ten years. The troops are now being relocated to Middle Shabelle. The campus’ buildings and grounds were renovated before the handover.
“This is a very positive move and sends a strong message on the importance of making sure all qualified Somali youth have the opportunity to continue their education after primary and secondary school to become the leaders of the future,” said Vincent Lelei, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, who attended the handover ceremony.
The Somali National University (SNU), which was the first university in Somalia when it was set up in 1954, reopened in 2014 after being closed for more than two decades during the conflict. Since then students have used its other campuses to study education, law, medicine, and engineering among various subjects.
The re-opening of the SNU was aimed at ensuring the provision of an affordable and high quality education which would expand access to higher education to those who did not have the means to attend one of the many private universities that have proliferated across the country.
Somalia has one of the lowest enrolment rates for primary school education with only a third of children in school and the prolonged drought has led to many thousands dropping out of school. Since the start of the year UNICEF and partners have supported over 104,000 children to remain in or return to school.
The handover ceremony, attended by senior government officials, UN and AMISOM representatives, was officiated by the Federal Minister for Higher Education, Abdirahman Dahir Osman, who said education was the anchor for sustainable development. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael Keating, emphasized the importance of education as the core foundation in the rebuilding of the country. “It is important that education and health facilities remain free and disassociated from military use to allow people free access to essential services especially in the current prolonged drought,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Somalia Representative a.i. “We should also look to the future. Somali youth make up the majority of the population and a public university offers them a once in a lifetime opportunity.”