Most Somali children have known nothing but war. Said Yasin, who develops educational programs in this African nation, is continually amazed and inspired by students’ unquenchable desire to learn—even under dire circumstances. On a recent visit to the United States, Yasin reflected on the radio-based instruction program that reaches 250,000 children and more than 7,000 teachers.
“This is a very important program for Somalis because the country is unstable and children don’t regularly go to school. Education is critical to the stability of this country. Our goal is to teach children about peace and conflict resolution and how to aim for better things. American aid toward this effort will have a huge impact on future generations’ ability to promote peace in the world.
Radio learning has been a very effective, low-cost approach to solving a difficult problem. We provide wind-up radios that don’t need batteries and don’t break easily, and once produced, the programs can be broadcast for a long time. With a little creativity, we can reach populations that have been displaced by the violence.
South-Central Somalia has been difficult to reach because of renewed attacks and danger. We evacuated our colleagues from Mogadishu because some of the rebels are targeting humanitarian workers, and there have been kidnappings and killings. Children from here have known nothing but war and are constantly on the move.
In Somaliland and Puntland, which are more peaceful, schools have few resources and untrained teachers, so the problems of educating children in a difficult situation are pervasive. Our project is trying to transform the classroom into a place where children can learn and teachers know how to manage the classroom.
We’ve been very successful reaching children and training teachers in government schools in Somaliland and Puntland. We’ve partnered with organizations, including Save the Children and CARE, and we hope to work with them to offer radio instruction and teacher training in South-Central Somalia if it becomes stable. Going forward, we want to reach another 20,000 children who are not in school and teach them life skills about how to resolve conflict and live peacefully.
When you go into a classroom and see children listening to the programs, they literally transform. This is the best thing that happens to them in their daily lives. Their faces light up, and they want more. They are eager to learn and eager for peace.”
The Somali Interactive Radio Instruction Program (SIRIP) is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Originally published on October 25, 2008