Mogadishu ( UM) – The public confrontation between students and the Minister of Education Abdullahi Godah Barre were very tense and angry. The students had every right to feel this way across the country because the exams for which they prepared were cancelled due to a leak of exam questions. Minister Godah also had every right to be disappointed because he and his Ministry had worked so hard to prepare the national exams. Today, the Police have an employee of the Ministry of Education suspected of the leak in custody. If they are found guilty, they must face justice and live with the shame of letting down their Ministry and Somali students everywhere.
Education is the only real way for Somalia to achieve stability and unity. Education creates hope and opportunities. The Somali people know this and, in most cases, spend the little money they have on it. Once only those that can travel to neighbouring countries or abroad were educated, today there are schools and universities in every corner in the country. So, while Somalis strive to educate themselves they must remember that educational development is not possible without the partnerships between themselves and the Ministry of Education. Whatever leaks happened cannot be blamed on just one or the other. We have a common duty to protect the integrity of our national exams together.
Education has come a long way in a short time in Somalia. This is a fact. Consider that unified national exam began only in 2015. Today, this is a national exercise with more pupils sitting them than ever before.
Also consider that national Somali educational certificates are recognised by key international partners including China, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Sudan and Egypt and the other African countries. This is a huge progress which must be built on to provide the Somali people and nation with the best hope for a brighter future.
Consider, exams in the past were written and printed in Nairobi, Kenya but since 2018, this now takes place in Somalia. This creates jobs and cuts the cost of printing and transportation while showing the world Somalis can be self sufficient.
To add to the other progress, Curriculum development has begun too and the syllabus for up to grade 8 is completed. While government doesn’t control many schools, strong relations exist between the government and private schools which must now all be registered with the Ministry. Somali certificates are now digitalised and harder to forge. Is this not success from where we were in the past?
The Ministry of Education in Somalia has many challenges but the progress it has made on policy and the management of national examinations on a small budget and limited time is clear. Yet, the Ministry needs to improve its communication with students and families and work in a more transparent manner in the future.
Minister Godah defintely needs media training to cope with crisis because his response to the student protests was not the best but his heart and mind are in the right place. This is clear from his championing of skills education alongside the development of a national curriculum which finally can be used by all schools. This is not the time to let one mistake derail the future of so many intelligent and hard working students.
Education should rise above politics and the Ministry of Education must give a new date for the revised exam. It must manage this better and all students and parents must play their part by avoiding the temptation to cheat. Those who cheat in exams only cheat themselves. In the end, they will be found out and shamed.
The Ministry of Education must not be demoralised by this experience. The staff who worked hard to prepare the national exams must be thanked. Those who are proven to have let them down should be arrested and prosecuted. Cheating is a global challenge and the Ministry must learn from this experience. The Ministry must improve the way it operates and development partners must support in this. Digitalisation of learning and exams is a good start.