A school census has collected crucial data to help Somalia achieve quality education for all
By Ban Dhayi
HARGEISA/GAROWE, Somalia, 27 November 2012 - UNICEF and the Ministries of Education in Puntland and Somaliland have put education reform in the spotlight through the launch of the School Census Statistics Year Book 2011/2012.
Realizing a milestone
The education system in Somalia has been decimated by over two decades of violence and conflict. Prior to the 2011 school census, the last time such data had been collected in Somalia was in 2006. Effective educational planning has been hampered by the lack of accurate and reliable data, including Educational Management Information System (EMIS) and enrolment data, while regular monitoring in insecure areas has been difficult and often fraught with risk.
The School Census is a milestone in the history of education in Somalia. For the first time, the Ministries of Education in Puntland and Somaliland, with the support of UNICEF, have collated data from primary schools and alternative education centres using ministry personnel.
In October 2011, the Education Ministries in Puntland and Somaliland conducted the 2011/2012 Primary School Census with technical and financial support from UNICEF and the European Union. EMIS software was donated by Australian aid program AusAID.
Data collected from schools across seven regions in Puntland and 13 regions in Somaliland cover child enrolment, schools and teachers, disaggregated by gender and region, and, where possible, by grade. The census also provides an estimate of the primary school gross and net enrolment rates, using United Nations Development Programme population projection estimates for 2011.
Mobilizing ministry staff, collecting crucial data
The 2011/2012 census was led by the staff of the Puntland and Somaliland Ministries of Education. A training programme was designed to empower ministry staff through cascade training on how to complete the Primary School Census questionnaire.
Some 167 Regional Education Officers, District Education Officers, Regional Education Supervisors and school mentors and mobilizers joined a four-day ‘training for trainers’ course conducted by a team of four ‘super trainers’ from the ministries in the two zones. The trainers had, in turn, been trained with the support of the European Union-funded ICDSEA programme. Training teams then held training programmes in different regional centres. In total, training was delivered to 1,394 identified head teachers.
The data collected through the census are expected to close a major gap in much-needed planning figures. The new statistical system is meant to provide up-to-date information on key aspects of the primary education system and to establish baseline data against which progress and standards can be assessed and various plans of action can be developed by education partners in Puntland and Somaliland – as well as to create reliable databases through EMIS units at the two Ministries of Education.
“Establishing a functional Education Management Information System (EMIS) unit at the Ministry of Education and conducting the annual school census is a significant gain for planners and educationalists in the region, as well as our development partners and donors,” says EMIS Coordinator in Puntland Mahmood Ali.
Head of the EMIS Unit at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Somaliland Ubah Du’ale is upbeat about the future of education through the utilization of data generated by EMIS: “For the first time I feel standing on a solid ground if I am to generate a statistical report or provide a snapshot of the education landscape in Somaliland.”
Toward quality education
The data collected in 2006 through the UNICEF Primary Education Survey indicated that fewer children attended school in Somalia than almost anywhere else in the world. The 2011/2012 data show notable increases in the number of pupils, enrolment rates, number and qualifications of teachers, formal schools and gender parity. However, entrenched regional and rural and urban disparities remain significant, as does the gender gap. Much more needs to be done to support quality education in Somalia.
“The findings of the Primary School Census are encouraging and showing that our effort is paying off. But it also shows that we have a long way to go before the aspired quality standards are realized. When we invest in Somali children’s education, we create opportunity for them and prosperity for their families. Education has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitation and hazardous labour,” says UNICEF Somalia Representative Sikander Khan.