By Hassan Muse
A mere walk across the universities in our country has it all; the promising bulk of our people are eventually getting hold of a bachelor degree. Yet we should rightly wonder: of what good use is such a degree? Who is to blame for its shortcomings and its oft-cited failure to embark us on a fruitful journey to our careers? These questions and a host of others haunt me on daily basis as I converse with a number of university graduates who are craving for a promising and a decent job. Of course, these graduates are unwilling to; say rear camel or other livestock for good reason. They have been provided with skills and they spent a great deal of time and energy on studying yet to expect them to do such a meager job is just an utter lost and a cheap replacement for many years of schooling and self-discovery.
Despite our collective effort to improve employment prospects, the number of unemployed university graduates is staggering. Our country is still in its nascent stages and a promising employment for every graduate is simply impossible. Yet dare we evaluate the education that we gain; and that is to say virtually none of the students that enroll in universities across the country have a college-equivalent reading level. Students with varying reading levels matriculate across universities each aspiring to acquire the skills necessary for the market. The low reading level, for example, is hampering our education and the skills we obtain. This forces our universities, even the top tier ones, to adjust to the expectations of the students. As a result, it’s very common for university students across the country to expect the teacher to explain the lesson in Somali.
This expectation has various implications and it lowers, first of all, the pace that our education is growing. At an age were math and English are quintessential in the global market, it’s of utmost importance for us to equip our students with decent skills. It’s quite understandable that we can’t simply upkeep with the international standard, yet it’s very important to aspire as such and we have done quite some progressive measures. The problem, as I perceive, resides in our educational system or in our curriculum to be blunt. It starts from our primary education and transitions to higher levels. The average reading level of students enrolling in high schools across the country is around 3rd to 4th grade and the math level is slightly higher. This poses a considerable challenge for students to maintain a decent level of university education.
The root of our educational problems lies in our primary education and it’s that primary education that requires a thorough investigation. We can’t simply expect our university students to be of high quality when our primary education is broke to say the least. We should resort to constructive dialogue to promote our educational system from a bottom-up strategy not vice verse. And dare I argue that our educational shortcoming is inherent in our curriculum and the ladder is crooked at the bottom. Therefore, we should make our primary education more demanding and rigorous and that will enrich our higher education. If we could aspire for a primary education that provides decent reading and math levels, we would consequently elevate our higher education. Our students that enroll in international universities, for instance, should be able to avoid taking intensive English courses and our local university students should abstain from expecting a Somali translation of the lessons.
Then let’s face it; our current educational curriculum is deprived but not deplorable. But what’s needed is a realization that our education is of course not fully-fledged and the achievement of such a goal is a distant dream but a steady bottom-up escalation is of cardinal importance. And I hope to see a real effort to alter the way forward.