WASHINGTON - More than 23,000 Somali students are sitting their final Secondary School exams despite recent militant threats that it will punish parents who send their children to Western-style schools and universities.
Somalia’s minister of education, Abdurahman Dahir Osman, said the exams, which began Saturday, will be conducted in 77 centers across five federal states – Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Southwest, Jubaland and Benadir.
Launching the exam in Mogadishu, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said educating youth was the only way Somalia could come back to its good governance.
“For us, having 70 percent youth population is an opportunity for Somalia, and educating them is the only way Somalia can again stand on its own legs,” said Khaire
Security has been beefed up, with hundreds of police deployed at the exam centers to prevent any possible security threat by militants.
“Over 1,000 security agents are manning the examination centers across the country,” said Osman, the education minister.
Last month, Somalia’s al-Shabab militants threatened to punish parents who send their children to Western-style schools and universities.
In a 26-minute audio recording aired by Radio Andalus, al-Shabab's mouthpiece in Somalia, group spokesman Ali Dhere said Western-style schools serve the interests of what he called "infidels" and aim to pull children away from Islam.
“There are secular and non-Islamic schools and universities in our country which serve to provide our youth with education that leads them to simply fall into the trap of their enemy and convert to their religions,” Ali Dhere said. “They make you love their behaviors, religion and history and hide the history of Islam.”
Over its 11-year existence, al-Shabab has often moved to shut down non-Islamic schools and replace them with schools that teach a strong religious curriculum.
Earlier this year it introduced a new all-Arabic education curriculum for local schools located in the areas they control in parts of South and Central Somalia.
Major subjects included the Quran, Hadith – sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, Math, Geography and History.
Somalia’s education has been controlled by private institutions with different curriculum mainly derived from the Arab countries, since the collapse of the government of President Siad Barre in early 1991.
This exam will be the third controlled by Somalia’s Ministry of Education.