Technical Veterinary School students take part in a field activity April 18th in the Somaliland town of Sheikh. [Tony Karumba /AFP]

Unlike her older siblings, Amran Yonis, a 22-year-old business administration student at Golis University in Hargeisa, said she had plenty of options available to her when she was looking to enrol in higher education in 2008.

“My elder siblings who finished before me had to wait three years because there was only one institute of higher learning, the University of Hargeisa,” she told Sabahi.

Yonis is part of a rising generation of Somali students eager and able to further their education.

Saeed Ahmed Hassan, president of Golis University, said enrolment at his university has increased dramatically. “Three years ago, we had 500 students, but now there are 3,000,” he told Sabahi. “In 2012 alone, we admitted 1,200 students.”

He added that business administration, engineering, sharia law and medicine are among the most popular programmes.

According to the Somaliland Higher Education Board, more than 60% of college students in Hargeisa are women.

To accommodate the influx of new students, the school has rented three additional buildings and constructed a fourth. In addition, the need for more qualified teachers has prompted the university to recruit from Kenya.

The impact of war

The protracted civil war that began in 1991 and the lack of strong government institutions able to uniformly regulate schools mean that degrees from local universities are often not recognised internationally, according to Mohammed Nur, a retired school administrator who consults with the government on education matters.

“The requirement to open colleges or universities is minimal,” he told Sabahi. “Important things such as facilities are not checked and [universities] admit students regardless of what they scored in secondary school.”

Addressing these concerns, the government says it began implementing measures to regulate higher education when it set up the Higher Education Board in 2010.

According to Khadar Ahmed Diriye, the board’s director, 16 universities have been established across Somaliland in the past 20 years.

“We found most [universities] were easily registered previously without proper procedure,” Diriye told Sabahi. To establish a regional standard, the board recently required all universities to re-register and issued them with temporary charters while their credentials are reviewed.

Diriye said the government brought in senior officials from Kenya’s Higher Education Commission to help re-organise the education sector in Somaliland.

Partnering with universities in neighbouring countries

Universities in neighbouring countries are partnering with local colleges on a wide range of specialised programmes.

For example, thanks to a partnership with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi, Golis University now offers a master’s in business administration.

In addition, Ethiopia’s Admas and Alpha Universities, and Uganda’s Fairland University have opened campuses in the region.

Hassan of Golis University said these collaborations provide local universities with the opportunity to adopt best practices in management and curricula development, strengthening Somali universities’ capabilities and credibility.

Challenges and opportunities ahead

University graduates are expected to boost the highly depleted employment pool in Somaliland, said Mohamed Dahir, a manager at Somaliland Civil Service, the recruitment arm of the regional administration.

College graduates hired by the administration in the past two years have already helped transform government institutions, he told Sabahi. He said these professionally trained employees have helped streamline the administration’s revenue collection system and improve efficiency at airports and other ports of entry.

“We have employed trained accountants, clerks and immigration officers, among others, who are technology savvy,” he said. “We have recently witnessed very good results. Previously, virtually all our personnel lacked proper education or training, which affected service delivery.”

By Keyse Yusuf

- Sabahi Online