Five teachers and eight students have been killed, and nearly 30, 000 more students have been deprived of the right to education after the last schools still operating in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu were closed in mid-October due to the unacceptable risk of violence.
Osman Mohamoud, President of the Somalia National Union of Teachers (SNUT), said in a statement that schools have tried to operate close to “a war zone” for long time, but it is now impossible to continue to put the students and their teachers in harm’s way. “As teachers, we have persevered as long as we could to keep teaching in the most dangerous situations, but it has become impossible to expose young children to any more danger,” Mohamoud said. "It is unacceptable to turn the last of our schools into military bases. School should be a safe haven for our children.” Most schools in Mogadishu closed their doors long ago because of the intense unrest, but a few remained open – despite the increasing violence and rising death toll. In the previous three months, at least five teachers were killed and more than nine others were wounded. In the same period, eight school children were killed while fifteen others were severely wounded in shelling of the neighbourhood known as K4. “We closed the last 34 schools and universities that remained open in Mogadishu because Somali government forces deployed around the K4 area where schools had moved to,” said Mohamed Saeed Farah, spokesperson for the Somali Association for Formal Education (SAFE), a local umbrella group. At least 27,200 students were concentrated in the K4 neighbourhood because of its relative stability compared to the rest of the capital. Now, even that one oasis of relative calm is gone, and along with it any opportunity for learning. The closure marks the end of all educational activities inside the capital, where violence and lawlessness have been the order of the day for the past two years since Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces retook the south-central part of the country from an Islamist group that had been in control. Schools in south and central Somalia have long been closed due to two decades of violence. Both Ethiopian and Somali government forces have targeted schools, while insurgent groups launch their attacks against the soldiers close to school premises. However, education as usual is clearly impossible in the current context. The SNUT has written many times to local government officials and to successive education ministers urging them to put a stop to the militarization of schools and the targeting of students and teachers, but to no avail. By Abdurrahman Warsameh
This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 28, December 2008.