The number of girls completing high school in Puntland has slightly increased thanks to efforts made by the education ministry and international partners.
According to the ministry, 1,888 girls completed their studies this year as compared to 1,600 the previous academic year.
The general director of the ministry, Mohamed Ali Farah, said they had employed 250 female teachers to strengthen girls’ education.
“We want the female teachers to encourage female students to share issues affecting them with the teachers,” said Mohamed.
Despite the improvement, a number of challenges including cultural impediments contribute to the relatively low enrolment of girls in school. Girls accounted for just 38% of the overall number of high school graduates this year.
“The reason we still have a small number of girls in school is because some families opt to educate [only] boys when faced with financial challenges. If parents are forced to make choices because of financial reasons, they opt to send the boys to school,” Farah said. “The inadequate number of female teachers is also another challenge.”
Fatumo Shukri Abdi, the director of the ministry’s female education development department, noted on the positive side that there was a 13 per cent increase in girls’ enrolment in 2018.
“To achieve the target of the ministry, which is to get 50 per cent [enrolment of girls] in 2020, the ministry plans to increase the number of female primary teachers so that they attract more female pupils,” Fatumo explained.
Besides recruiting female teachers, the Puntland state government has also employed female counselors in schools with a low number of female teachers.
Fa’iso Abdirisaq Jam’a and five other female teachers teach at Gambol primary and secondary school in Garowe.
Fa’iso urged the education ministry to campaign to encourage married girls to resume their studies.
“Girls are generally very few compared to the number of boys in schools. The government should establish centres that deal with challenges or root causes of girls dropping out of school,” said Fa’iso.
Zamzam Ahmed Abdullahi, 19, sat for this year’s secondary exams after completing her studies at Haji-Ali-Bihi primary and secondary school in Galkayo in Mudug region.
Zamzam, who is married, delivered her first baby a day before the exams began in Puntland.
“When I got married, I did not stop learning because my husband allowed me to continue my education. I was at home when the exams began but the government sent an invigilator and I did the exams at home,” said Zamzam.
UNICEF reports the number of girls in schools across Somalia stands at 44 per cent.