The government and education officials in Somalia have condemned and dismissed a statement by the Islamist group Al-Shabab warning schools against using "un-Islamic" text books provided by the UN and aid agencies.
"The government and the education fraternity make sure that any books that are being used in our schools do not violate our religion and culture, so their statement does not concern us,” Education Minister Ahmed Abdullahi said on 22 September.
He said Somalia needed all the help it could get in the education sector, as in all other sectors, and “we will welcome any help that meets our needs”.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was singled out by Al-Shabab’s spokesman on 20 September.
However, UNESCO Somalia told IRIN by email: “The four pillars of UNESCO's mandate cover education, science, culture and communication, and under culture falls religion. It is therefore surprising to read that our organization could be promoting the use of 'un-Islamic subjects' in textbooks.”
Furthermore, “the very limited available textbooks are not UN textbooks but textbooks produced by Somali Education Authorities with the assistance of its national and international partners in order to provide the country with the materials necessary to maintain a minimum of basic education services, at least,” it said.
Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
of the Al-shabab: Education Minister Ahmed Abdullahi accused the group
of being against the interests of the Somali people, particularly
children (file photo)
Blocking children’s progress
Abdullahi accused Al-Shabab of being against the interests of the Somali people, particularly children.
"The one thing Somali children need more than anything else is peace and they [Al-Shabab] are the ones engaged in violence that affects our children," he said.
The minister called on Al-Shabab to engage in peaceful dialogue and stop the violence.
A civil society source, who requested anonymity, told IRIN Al-Shabab was trying to muscle in on the education sector. “They don’t have much involvement with education and I think this is their way of saying, ‘we are players now’.”
He said Somali schools were struggling to provide a modicum of education and “if they [Al-Shabab] were to succeed then it will kill what little education our children are getting”.
After the collapse of Somalia's central government in 1991, schools and universities were destroyed as the city was torn apart by militia. But private schools have been gradually re-established over the past few years.
Meanwhile, the Somali capital Mogadishu enjoyed a rare day of quiet with no violence on 22 September - a day after the end of Ramadan.
“For the first time in a long while we enjoyed a very quiet day with no sound of guns,” said Hassan Mahamud, a local journalist.
There is, however, a palpable fear among the population that the violence will resume "with a much greater frequency", he said.
Early Deyr rains have arrived in the city. "The rains have been welcomed but there is also fear of the effects they will have on those who live in the open," he added.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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