Black children in Bristol are disproportionately affected by poor educational institutions – Cllr Jama
Educational segregation in #Bristol is a pressing issue. Bristol city is ‘sleep walking into crisis’ says Cllr Hibaq Jama. She has challenged Mayor George Ferguson on the racial divide in education in Bristol and the lack of access to good schools in secondary school place planning.
Wadatashi: Arrimaha Dhalinyarada, Waxbarashada & Horumarinta Bulshada
Dhamaan bulshada Soomaaliyeed ee ku nool magaalada Bristol waxa loogu baaqayaa in ay ka soo qaybgalaan shirka wadatashiga bulshada, kaas oo si gaar ah loogu qaadaa-dhigi doono arrimo la xidhiidha waxbarashada caruurta, dhalinyarada iyo horumarinta bulshada.
Shirkani waa shir wadatashi ah, waa shir ka madaxbanaan siyaasad iyo wixii la xidhiidha; waa shir ujeedadiisa ugu muhiimsani tahay in bulshada Soomaaliyeed ee magaalada degani ay helaan madal ay isku xog-waraystaan, dib u jaleecaan wixii u qabsoomay sannadkii la soo dhaafay iyo waxyaabaha qabyada ah.
Sidoo kale shirkani wuxuu bulshada siinayaa fursad ay kaga faalloodaan caqabadaha hortaagan iyo sidii xal loogu heli lahaa – gaar ahaan dhinaca barbaarinta iyo waxbarashada carruurta, aqoonta iyo xirfadaha dhalinyarada, iyo horumarka iyo isku-duubnida ama isku-xidhnaanta bulshada. Taa waxa dheer, in dhalinyarada iyo waalidiintuba ay helidoonaan fursado codkooda lagu maqlo, si wadajir ahna u qorsheeyaan waxyaabaha ugu muhiimsan ee ay doonayaan in ay qabtaan ama u qabsoomaan – mustaqbalka dhow iyo ka fog labadaba.
Haddaba, Mudenayaal iyo Marwooyin, sida kor ku xusan shirkani wuu ka madaxbanaan yahay siyaasad iyo wixii la xidhiidha, sidaa daraadeed waxaanu idinku dhiirigelinaynaa in aad ka soo qaybgashaan shirkan wadatashiga ah ee loogu talogalay in bulshada Soomaaliyeed ee magaalada degani ay isku xog-waraystaan, si wadajir ahna uga wadatashadaan horrumarinta bulshada iyo sidii wax looga qaban lahaa waxyaabaha caqabadda ku ah horumarkooda – haddii ay tahay dhinaca waxbarashada, kobcinta garaadka ilmaha (mid dhaqameed iyo mid diimeedba), fal-dembiyeedyada dhalinyarada, mukhaadaraadka, iwm. Waxaan ku rajo weynahay in madashaa aan isku arki doono, qof kastaana uu kaalin wax ku ool ah ka qaadan doono.
Goorma: Sabti, 10 January 2015
Goortee: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Goobtee: Trinity Centre, Trinity Road, Bristol BS2 0NW
Wixii faahfaahin ah fadlan kala soo xidhiidh:
Siciid Maxamed Buraale: 07423 062485
Khaliil Aadan Cabdi: 07557 510546
Over the last three to five years, Bristol schools have taken productive steps to improve the engagement of parents although they ought to do more if they are to enable pupils remove hurdles to their advancement. The current engagement strategies, for example, should be looked at thoroughly and further developed to make schools be more democratically governed, but equally more responsive to the diverse needs of the local community. Continue reading
If the Government is committed to tackling educational inequalities in our schools, why the Education Secretary Michael Gove made recruitment of good teachers for inner city schools even harder than it already is?
The Conservative Education Minister Michael Gove has been really busy. He has restored the prestige and worlds trust in our GCSE’s and A levels by making them more rigorous (with more students failing?), encouraged academies to employ non-qualified teaching staff for their ‘real life experience’ and still wants to bring army boots into classrooms because of course they can restore discipline (that is all that is needed isn’t it?). Another of his flagship successes has been to destroy the humanities and arts by continuing his crusade to make only his core subjects have any value and the results have been the poor take up of these subjects by students throughout the education system.
Like Lady Thatcher before him, he appears to believe that not only have exams got easier under a Labour government but that the education system no longer teaches the curriculum required for Britain to compete in a globalised aged driven by technology, science and foreign languages. Instead, the argument suggests, as Thatcher herself argued in the 1987 Conservative conference, Labour has presided over an “ideological curriculum” which values political correctness and has turned everything into an academic subject. In order for Britain to once again reindustrialise and hold its bowed head high, Mr Gove is unapologetically stating that education must reflect real life in that there must be competition for success and there must inevitably be clear winners and losers. (more…)
A poem based on research and conversations with former drug dealers.
My mum says I am a dealer
My boys say I am the man
Mum says I am a disgrace
Boys say I am the boss
My mum says study
But my teacher knows I am not going anywhere.
My mum shouts change
But what other choices are there? Continue reading
(BSMG) Liban Obsiye — In a country that spends billions of pounds on education every year and where expenditure on education has been steadily rising since 1997, it is very sad to see that many parents still feel that there are some bad schools that they should not send their children to. This year while many more children were accepted in to their first choice secondary schools, the numbers that were not still remains significant in many parts of the country. Many parents are now in the process of appealing the decisions by the Local Authorities or Academies which they hope to send their children to but given the fact that most of these are oversubscribed; there is a very slim chance that they will succeed.
At a time of unprecedented public sector budget cuts it is only natural for parents to be worried about their family’s futures and considering that a good education is seen by many of them as the key to their children’s future success, it is understandable that they want to appeal in order to get their children admission to the schools that they feel will best support them and provide them with the best possible education.
Parents now have access to a great amount of data about individual schools in their areas and are easily able to compare their strengths and weaknesses. Since the introduction of school league tables schools have been in competition to attract the brightest and best students to bolster their academic standings. This inevitably created winners and losers in the schools admissions process which today has resulted in some schools been oversubscribed whilst others struggle to remain open.
This market orientated school system is now to be further entrenched as the new Coalition government is urging local authority run schools to become academies in order to be independent of the bureaucratic management style and leadership of the local authorities. Schools are been tempted away from local authority control with the promise of greater freedom to manage their own affairs in all areas from recruitment of staff and their pay to the curriculum they teach. In addition the Conservative education minister, Michael Gove, has announced that he wants schools to focus on the key subjects which they will be judged on in the league tables in the future which are mathematics, English, sciences, languages and humanities and this has made parents more anxious about getting admissions to a “traditionally good” school as one parent put it that excels in the traditional subjects.
“Government schools struggle to attract good teachers to their schools. In fact my daughter has had more supply teachers in some subjects than she can remember.” One parent said. “If people can get their children to these good schools than they have a better chance of getting the good teachers to teach the key subjects.”
What is evident is that many parents have bought into this good school/bad school nonsense and that those on the right of the political spectrum have succeeded in convincing parents that they have a choice to what they deem to be a good education. However, with very few places at these so called good, well performing schools, what are the majority of the parents whose children did not get admission to these do?
Well they can go home and weep and resign themselves to the misguided belief that their children will not do well as a result of their schools or do something so that they support their children to succeed. Parents too often forget that they are the primary educators and that schools are nothing more than mere buildings with teachers in them. Many good local schools are been dragged into a competition that would not even be necessary if parents, students and schools worked together.
Many parents complain about poor school leadership and the current coalition government has promised to tackle this by allowing parents to set up their own schools if necessary. However, while good school leadership is crucial, the head teachers should not be treated like private sector Chief Executives whose duty it is to bring lucrative returns on investor’s investments. Rather they should be seen as the face of the school leadership but parents should be working with the schools in the background to create a learning environment that develops future leaders that local communities can be proud of.
The neoliberal education policies that threaten many schools are not new. In fact all Political Party’s today can be blamed for continuing and endorsing them since their inception. However, what it is not made clear is where the consumer, formerly parents, are suddenly going to find all these amazing successful schools where they have a choice of sending their children to. Will they appear from thin air? I doubt it.
The simple fact is that there are some struggling schools in our communities that we must work hard to improve collectively. With cuts to teaching and extracurricular support for students with special educational needs, it is fundamental that schools, parents and community groups work together to build trust and inspire students to achieve their full potential in these most difficult of times. Many community groups complain that some narrow minded school leaders operate in a hierarchical way that portrays community groups as a threat rather than a support mechanism. However, if this is the case, these school leaders may find that while they are in their offices trying to work out which part of their pyramid of hierarchy community groups fit in, their schools may be earmarked for closure.
Good inclusive school leadership, coupled with parental and community engagement, will inevitably result in successful local schools that communities can be proud of and rely on. Parents should not dessert local schools in times of difficulty and school leaders should not shut out external support service providers. The reality is that the majority of students are not going to get into these so called good schools because they are oversubscribed. However, what needs to be emphasised is that there are no bad schools. Schools are merely buildings. The interaction that takes place within them between all stakeholders is what makes some schools more successful than others.
Liban Obsiye firstname.lastname@example.org
Somali parents have expressed their desire to see themselves and their children succeed, and integrate, in the UK through educational attainment, qualification, and professional employment. However, lack of school leadership, poor teaching standards, low teacher expectations and – in some extreme cases – institutional racism have hampered the ideal educational success based on principle of meritocracy.
(BSMG) Liban Obsiye
Primary and secondary school education in the United Kingdom are mandatory and both are free for all students. All students between the ages of four and sixteen are by law obliged to attend both of these at different stages in their lives depending on their age. Educational success is theoretically determined by nothing other than a student’s age and ability to learn.
Before the Education Act 1944 education for those without status and title was limited to the learning of the basic skills they required to carry out their pre determined roles in society. Most of the education was delivered by religious and third sector groups with very little national co-ordination. However, the 1944 Education Act went some way towards creating a more formal and structured education for all students within the system. The Education Act 1944 made secondary school free and obligatory until the age of 15 and this was later raised to 16 in 1972. The Act had two major aims at its core and they were to improve the country’s economic efficiency by developing the skills of the future work force and to create a more equal society by providing all young people with the opportunity to be educated and where possible and desired, to progress into higher education or into an occupation. The Education Act 1944 was revolutionary in that it leads to a shift from an education determined by an accident of birth to one based on age, aptitude and individual student ability. In theory, this arguably was the birth of Meritocracy, the idea that everyone has equal opportunity to achieve in education regardless of their background.
The role of education in society is of great importance as through the education process young people are socialised into the norms and values of society. Education, universally, is the key to tackling poverty, ignorance and social exclusion. As a result it can be described as a vehicle for change and social prosperity.
The prominent Functionalist sociologist Emile Durkheim famously argued that education promotes social solidarity through learning the social rules of behaviour of a society from one generation to the next. Education also develops all those specialist and most essential skills needed for the progress of individuals and society such as literacy and the ability to reason. It also provides those engaged in it, a suitable role within society that matches their individual unique talents.
The importance of education is not lost on Somali parents as they like any other group of parents would like to see their children succeed academically and professionally. During many community meetings around the UK, Somali parents have expressed their desire to see themselves and their children succeed in the UK through the attainment of educational qualifications and professional employment. They also made it clear that they want to integrate into wider society in order to provide their children with the best possible opportunities that this country has to offer. However, most of the Somali parents feel that some in school and wider social factors are hampering their children from succeeding academically.
In school factors are factors that are directly related to the schools and which takes place within the schools themselves. Among the most complained of in school issues are a lack of leadership, poor teaching standards, lack of permanent teachers, low teacher expectations and in some extreme cases, institutional racism. One parent argued that what makes the situation worst is that most parents know their children are been failed by a combination of in school factors and this is compounded by other societal ills such as poverty and poor housing which makes learning at home even more difficult and unlikely. One parent went further by suggesting that most schools attended by Somali students in Bristol are failure factories aimed at only teaching students the most minimal in order to maintain the racial and class status quo in this country. This parent described the schools as a production line which was producing illiterate and unmotivated children who possess all the wrong priorities in life. What added insult to injury for one parent from Bristol was the fact that some schools employ token Somali support staff who they feel are unrepresentative and unqualified to be working with their children. “They think by sending me a young Somali person who is no older than my own children they can tick the parental engagement box. They can’t because I do not want to speak to this young token Somali school worker because they know nothing about my child’s education. I want to meet the teachers and not these buffers in between,” one parent said to the amusement of others.
Parents have conveyed their worries of institutional racism within predominantly Somali schools many times over the years and despite assurances they are not convinced that their children are getting a fair education. Many point to poor career and year 9 subject options advice which appear to steer Somali students towards the more vocational courses and professions than the academic ones. They also point to the lack of Somali and ethnic teachers in schools especially at senior management levels despite the majority of students been of these backgrounds.
What makes the education process most unfair for parents is that they believe large class sizes, poor student behaviour and a box ticking approach to learning and teaching has made their children’s future less bright and with planned government spending cuts in education most fear things will only get worst.
Of course, with education spending cuts things will only get more difficult as public policy will be more directed towards reducing the national deficit than tackling poverty or the other causes of educational inequalities. In addition, Continuous Professional Development budgets for school teachers and leaders is likely to be savagely decreased along with funding for key support workers within some of the most challenging schools in the city of Bristol which most Somali parents children attend. Furthermore, adult education and life long learning has already been earmarked for substantial cuts so much so that ESOL classes that were once free and easily available to most parents will now become more like an application for a place on a sponsored PhD at Oxford or Cambridge University.
However, despite all of the mentioned issues above, parents need to understand one thing and one thing only. This very important thing is that ultimately their children’s educational success lies with them and not just with the schools. Parents openly and regularly complain about in school factors such as low and discriminatory teacher expectations, institutional racism, poor teaching, and too many supply teachers but whilst they have no control over some of these issues, they can easily address the others through active parental involvement in their children’s schools and home lives.
In an ideal world educational success would be based on the principals of meritocracy and all students in every school in the country would be provided with an equal opportunity to succeed and pursue their dreams. However, we do not live in an ideal world and it is about to become less ideal and equal as the effects of the recession is going to be felt more sharply as more key public sector workers will start to lose their jobs in the coming few months. Educational bias is rife and they are brought on by many different things such as sex, race and class but it is important to realise that this bias which leads to great inequality and differential educational attainment among students will exist for the foreseeable future. Many pledges and attempts have been made to make the system more meritocratic but the problems at the heart of the issue such as poverty are not getting any easier to solve as the gap between the rich and poor in society widens further and more rapidly.
The honest fact is that Somali parent’s need to start becoming the changes they want to see in their children. Somali adults and parents are statistically among the most economically inactive in the UK and they are the most represented in all the social benefit registers from Housing benefits to Jobseekers allowance which in turn forces their children onto free school meals offered to those children whose parents are economically inactive for whatever reason or are not earning enough to be able to meet the school meal costs of their children. Various research findings have linked poor educational attainment with free school meals and the latest figures from the Poverty Site, the UK site for statistics on poverty and social exclusion, indicate that 11-year-old pupils eligible for free school meals are around twice as likely not to achieve basic standards in literacy and numeracy as other 11-year-old pupils. In addition to this, most Somali parents struggle with the basic English language and this continues to cause friction between themselves and their children’s schools. Furthermore, research by London Metropolitan University has found that the lack of understanding between parents and their children has caused a huge generation gap which has lead to the construction of a communication barrier between Somali parents and their children. The sad fact is that Somali parents are now regularly relying on the schools to inform them of what is going on in their own children’s lives as a result of them not been able to understand them themselves.
Somali students are very bright by all standards as most of them speak a minimum of two languages. However, their learning within schools is disrupted by their own poor behaviour. Many parents blame the schools for this but the question is how do parents expect schools to discipline their own children? Surely this is the parent’s job at home?
Yes, it is but again this is made difficult as Somali families now are more likely to be lead by a single parent mother as a result of family breakdown. Whilst it is true that some racism may exist within schools, it is not as rife as it once might have been as a breed of younger teachers are now delivering the education and more and more schools are providing cultural training for their teachers. However, if one was to attribute Somali student underachievement to the schools rather than the parents the logical question would then be if this is the case, why is it that other ethnic groups who are equally as likely to suffer from racial bias within the schooling system achieve so consistently? The simple answer to this is parental awareness of the education system and its great value to their children’s lives. This is also complimented by the parent’s economic activities as well as their individual ability to assist their children in achieving within the system which is made possible by their higher levels of personal education.
If Somali parents want better educational attainment for their children they must understand that teacher expectations are based on many things but among the most important are students behaviour and parental support as those student who are poorly behaved and whose parents show no interest in their education are those most likely to suffer from teacher prejudice. Where this might have been race related in the past, it is more likely to be the student’s behaviour and their parent’s attitude towards education that forces teachers to ignore some students over others today.
With some students, it is actually their own parents who put them off the education process entirely. This is because most Somali parents, like all parents, have high aspirations for their children and as a result they try to direct them to the careers which will best place them in an increasingly competitive world. However, what is clear is that Somali parents do not value vocational skills and qualifications as much as academic ability and this has been made clear to many of the children who feel that if they cannot go to university than they have failed. This could not be further from the truth as the most successful people in the world have never set foot in a university let alone attend it for three or four years as students. What Somali parents need to do is to recognise that their children are individuals and have their own goals in life and that they ought to be supported as a university degree is no guarantee of anything. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, teacher or a lawyer even if they have the ability to be. Parents cannot live their lost professional dreams through their children as children will only succeed in education or training when they are doing something they are passionate about and something that gives their individual lives meaning. In direct contrast, there are those parents who feel that their children should seek employment straight after compulsory education at the age of 16. This is because many Somali families, despite the relative poverty most of them live in, support absent members of their family who still reside in Somalia or other neighbouring African countries and the income that the young family member brings home would be vital to the extended families survival. These parents would rather concentrate on the present rather than the future and as a result it becomes difficult for a young member of the family to pursue further education and work at the same time without sacrificing one for the other. However, having said this, there may be some exceptional students who do both or can do both but the likelihood of them succeeding is very low.
Furthermore, Somali people have always been and still continue to be very nomadic and this has had a horrible impact on their children’s lives as the lack of permanent settlement forces them to move from place to place and exchange culture for culture. Inevitably this leads to students underachieving in schools because they never are settled in one place long enough to build up the confidence and relationships required to be able to aspire to achieve anything of any value.
The impact of educational underachievement is horrendous and it can leave behind lasting effects on students. No student regardless of race wants to fail as most would like the nicer things in life that they are bombarded with by the media and most know that unless they are gifted in other ways, education will be their only route to achieving these dreams. This goes for Somali children too and the only way this can happen is if this damaging cycle of educational underachievement is permanently severed by parents through assisting their children’s schools to teach their children better. Educational underachievement should be taken personally by all parents as it is a reflection on their parenting and their children’s values as much as on the bias that exists within the schooling system. Parents are the primary educators and it is through them that children learn the values of society and what is right from wrong. These vital values that they learn within the home will be the values they take outside to the real world and as a result of this parenting cannot be outsourced to schools or other agencies.
The middle classes who have predominantly driven the agenda for social change in the UK and in particular, on the issues of equality and education, appear to no longer be interested in comprehensive education as they aspire to join the elites of society in the private schools or form niche comprehensive schools in affluent areas with difficult entry requirements which bar the poorer students from entering. The middle classes in the later part of the last century through lobbying and voting worked hard towards the creation of a fairer comprehensive education system for all students. However, as they have become more affluent, more and more middle class families prefer the branded and well marketed education of private schools such as Eton which they believe will provide their children with a better education and future prospects. Clearly, as the majority of Somali families cannot afford the private school fees, if Somali parents want change within the education system and for their concerns to be put on the local and national education agenda they must learn to scream loudly enough to be heard and employ the lobbying techniques used by the more affluent groups within society. Despite this, there are those parents within the Somali community who understand all of the mentioned things above and have themselves succeeded in education and as a result have been able to have a positive impact on their children’s lives. However, once again, these parents are the exception rather than the rule.
The Somali community needs support to overcome poverty and social exclusion, which contributes to their children’s poor educational achievements. This support is currently provided by those working within the schools themselves. Many schools now employ Somali speaking support staff and teachers and many more provide some services aimed at engaging the parents with the schools activities. However, this is not cost effective and sustainable in the long term as these in school support workers are not seen as independent individuals who are employed to safeguard the success of the parent’s children but school employees who represent the schools best interest at all times. Since many parents feel that some schools are not representing the best interests of their children, these employees become an extension of the system that is failing their children. In order to overcome this, it would be best and more legitimate in the eyes of the parents, to provide the funding for these in school activities to local third sector groups who are best equipped and have greater experience in delivering outside school support to both the students and their parents. The type of support needed such as mentoring, supplementary schooling, parenting and cultural awareness training is best offered in the community and in a setting free and independent of the school environment. Somali parents have reiterated in every community event organised to discuss issues related to their children that they feel let down by the local schools which their children attend. In order to address this Somali parents want to be an active partner in their children’s education. They no longer want to be passengers on their children’s educational journey. They want to be in the passenger seat working with the schools to ensure their children have a better education than what most of them have become accustomed to.
By funding third sector groups which parents approve of and have relationships with, parents would feel more in control of the agenda and the direction of the support offered to them. They are also more likely to feel part of the process and able to hold providers of outsourced services to account as there would be communal ownership of the services and its objectives. This in turn would increase the trust between the schools and parents and it would lead to the creation of a new relationship based on co-operation and mutual obligation.
The politicisation of education is wrong but the most politicised issue after immigration and crime is education. In an ideal world education would be above petty Party politics but the fact is that it is not. A few weeks away from one of the most tightly contested political elections in modern British History, all the major political Parties are offering parent centred educational policies which they argue will allow schools to be guided and governed by parental direction. The current government, New Labour, in addition to this election pledge, has invested historical amounts in education with mixed outcomes and they have advocated for the extension of the services schools offer to their students and families to include parenting and family support, sports clubs and childcare. However, the Conservatives, want to localise education and free schools from local and central government control. They want to give Head teachers more freedom over the way they discipline their students and introduce tougher school tests because they feel that education has been dumbed down to meet New Labour targets.
All of the three main Political Parties do have equally valid manifesto pledges but for the low income or no income families within society the Conservative model works against them for it is aimed at middle class parents who feel they can run their children’s schools better than their local Councils. If this policy was to come to fruition the attainment gap the Conservative Party aims to narrow will only widen as some schools in middle class areas which already are too exclusive for the poorer students to access, will thrive whilst the poorer ones will be left behind.
Most of the Somali parents do not want to run their children’s schools as they know that they are not yet professionally ready for such level of responsibility. They do prefer on the other hand, the New Labour and Liberal Democrats education policies as they advocate for more in school support in the form of more funding and smaller class sizes. However, arguably this has lead in the past to some of the parents outsourcing their parental responsibilities to the schools and other support agencies.
From the local Somali education meetings in Bristol and around the UK, it is clear that some of the Somali community members are waking up to their children’s failures and understanding their role in assisting them to succeed. The fact is that educational inequality is real and it is primarily driven by outside school factors such as the home environment, parent’s attitudes towards education, peer pressure, poverty and parents own level of education. Having now woken up to this reality, the majority of the Somali community and their third sector support providers need to be ready to play their part in addressing the educational underachievement of young Somali students in the UK.
The greatest gift a society can give a child is a good education and every child deserves this. However, the only way this can be achieved is through a collective endeavour by the schools, parents and policymakers to ensure that the needs of the children within the education system come before their egos and the petty politics that accompanies it.
Recommendation for tackling Somali student’s underachievement in Schools:
- Children do not learn by lectures, they learn by example. Somali parents should become the change they want to see in their children.
- Somali parents who need parenting support should seek it from local training providers. Parenting training is not shameful and it can help to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between themselves and their children.
- Somali Parents should seek to learn the English language and formally educate themselves. This would allow them to advocate for their children’s right to a worthwhile education.
- Parents must acknowledge and support their children’s professional aspirations and not burden them with their own professional dreams.
- Third sector, parent approved providers of outside school services such as play, supplementary schools and mentoring should be commissioned to do this as the schools cannot do everything effectively on their own.
- Third sector Somali groups should be encouraged and supported by local Councils to tender for outside school service provision contracts. This would be most beneficial for all concerned in areas like mentoring where a local Somali charity would be able to arrange for Somali mentors to work with the Somali youth in order to raise attainment. This would allow for the provision of role models and cultural education from those that know the students and their parent’s best.
- Local reading, debating and study clubs should be organised within the community for all to participate in.
- Set up a Somali national education forum to discuss the key issues such as school allocations, exclusion and integration and parental involvement. Every City should have a branch member to deliver locally and since the issues are similar nationally, a community solution based on national evidence can be formulated.
- Somali parents must work towards influencing the educational direction of their children’s school by joining the Board of Governors.
- Since a large number of Somali students in schools are either asylum seekers or refugees, both they and their parents should be supported by community groups to understand the education system and to generally integrate into wider society through education and employment.
The author would like to thank all those that have contributed their knowledge, expertise and time to this publication. Special thanks to Mr.Yusuf Salah and Mahmud Ahmed Matan who both have been instrumental in this publication.
The author can be reached by email: email@example.com
15 March 2010
Somali Educators’ Forum (SEF)
Talo: debate on the educational underachievement of Somali pupils in Bristol
On Saturday 20 March, the Somali Educators’ Forum, supported by the Somali Resource Centre, hosts a debate to discuss the roots of Somali pupil underachievement in Bristol schools.
The debate, Talo, which will be held at Barton Hill Settlement, Bristol, from 6.00pm to 9.00pm, will examine if the needs of Somali children (and their parents) are addressed accordingly, and receive appropriate support at school to improve attainment and to integrate into the UK educational system. Concurrently, it will look at the level of parental and community engagement and involvement; more importantly, it will discuss the capacity of Somali-led organisations and the role of the Supplementary School Services, particularly the gap between what it offers and what Somali-led supplementary schools receive.
The event will feature a debate panel and guest speakers. These will include Somali practitioners from local primary and secondary schools and voluntary and community organisations, parents, and community leaders and/or activists.
The audience will include Somali parents and carers, community workers, members of the community, and teaching and support staff from schools and other educational institutions in Bristol.
Notes for editors
Somali Educators’ Forum was set up to develop the professional capacity of Somali educators and/or practitioners; to address, tackle educational inequalities and social exclusion, among many other things, faced by Bristol’s Somali children and young people (and their families).
Somali Resource Centre is a Bristol based Somali-led voluntary organisation.
Author: Abdi Mohamed
For all media enquiries relating to this press release, please contact Somali Resource Centre on 0117 9077994
The importance of education is quite clear. Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use. One can safely say that a human being is not one in the proper sense till he is educated.
This importance of education is basically for two reasons. The first is that the training of a human mind is not complete without education. Education makes man a right thinker. It tells man how to think and how to make decision.
The second reason for the importance of education is that only through the attainment of education, man is enabled to receive information from the external world; to acquaint himself with past history and receive all necessary information regarding the present. Without education, man is as though in a closed room and with education he finds himself in a room with all its windows open towards outside world.
This is why Islam attaches such great importance to knowledge and education. When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first word of its first verse was ‘Iqra’ that is, read. Education is thus the starting point of every human activity.
A scholar (alim) is accorded great respect in the hadith. According to a hadith the ink of the pen of a scholar is more precious than the blood of a martyr. The reason being that a martyr is engaged in defence work while an alim (scholar) builds individuals and nations along positive lines. In this way he bestows a real life to the world.
The Qur’an repeatedly asks us to observe the earth and the heavens. This instils in man a desire to learn natural science. All the books of hadith have a chapter on knowledge (ilm). In Sahih Bukhari there is a chapter entitled “The virtue of one who acquires ilm (learning) and imparts that to others.”
How great the importance attached to learning is in Islam can be understood from an event in the life of the Prophet. At the battle of Badr in which the Prophet gained victory over his opponents, seventy people of the enemy rank were taken prisoner. These prisoners of war were literate people. In order to benefit from their education the Prophet declared that if one prisoner teaches ten Medinan children how to read and write, this will serve as his ransom and he will be set free. More recently, the great Statesman and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela, went on to state that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and for him and the African National Congress party he lead, this proved to be true as apartheid in South Africa was finally defeated in 1994 by the election of Mandela as the first black president of South Africa.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Mandela
Mandela’s emphasis on education and its ability to change the world is more than a mere quote to promote education. It is the truth. Nations can rebuild, grow and strengthen if they have the educated and ambitious workforce and population that are necessary to do all of these things.
Dr. Bulhan, the Chancellor of the University of Hargeisa, who came to Europe with the Chancellors of other Somailand Universities such as Amoud to promote education and academic co-operation between European Universities and themselves, gave a speech emphasising the importance of education and the financial difficulties his and other Somaliland Higher education institutions face in delivering it to wider groups.
Dr. Bulhan spoke of the growth of Higher education in Somaliland and the desperate need there was when he gave up a full time Professorship in America to go back to Hargeisa to be part of the development of Somaliland and Hargeisa University. Dr. Bulhan also spoke of the hunger that existed among his students and wider society to attain knowledge and the greatest obstacle that stood in their way: the fees. In order to operate as a university and to pay the salaries of teachers and support staff, Hargeisa University must charge for the education it provides and the only feasible way of doing this is to charge students as a result of the government been in absolutely no position to be able to support students. Dr. Bulhan informed those in the meeting that he has done all that could be done to reduce the fees and that everybody has sacrificed to bring the fees down to the bear minimum that is required to keep the University going. However, despite this, many who have the ability to study at higher education level cannot still afford to and many others, who were fortunate enough to enter higher education, cannot afford to finish it due to an inability to pay their fees.
Whilst many Somali youth in the West squander the opportunity to educate themselves for the better, more prosperous and fulfilling futures available to them, most of their counterparts back in Somaliland are struggling to feed and clothes themselves. Education to these youngsters is a premium; a luxury and not a right.
In order to remedy this, Dr. Bulhan has requested support from the Somali people in Diaspora who have the ability to support any of his students to enter or continue their education at the University he leads. In fact, any assistance to any under privileged student at any University in Somaliland is welcome and desperately needed. But in the case of Hargeisa University, Dr. Bulhan has created a Dahabshiil account for any potential sponsor to donate money to assist any of his students. Those who do sponsor will be able to communicate directly with those they sponsor and be informed of their progress by the University throughout their academic career.
The importance of education is very well known or ought to be, to the Somali community all over the world because as a result of tribal division, suspicion, hatred and ignorance brought on by a lack of education they have lost their homes and have been forced to immigrate all over the world.
Education will be Somalia’s route out of poverty and self destruction. It is the light at the end of the tunnel which has the possibility of ending 20 years of civil war and contributing to the development of the other more peaceful regions of Somalia such as Somaliland and Puntland.
Education, development and national progress are heavily linked and if Somalia and the Somali people are to have a hope of progressing in any society they must educate themselves and contribute to the education of their young fellow country men and women. Many members of the Somali community have been reluctant in the past to support students back in Somalia and Somaliland because they thought there would be no benefit for them personally. Many of these people see education as important ONLY if and where it will lead to better earning potentials for the students they support. This could not be more wrong! Education should be pursued by all just for education sake. This point was stressed most eloquently by Mahatma Gandhi who wrote:
“The real difficulty is that people have no idea of what education truly is. We assess the value of education in the same manner as we assess the value of land or of shares in the stock-exchange market. We want to provide only such education as would enable the student to earn more. We hardly give any thought to the improvement of the character of the educated. The girls, we say, do not have to earn; so why should they be educated? As long as such ideas persist there is no hope of our ever knowing the true value of education.”
Of course, no one is asking that all students be egalitarian and ask nothing in return for their many years of study. Nor should they but it is important to avoid the creation of greater inequality than that which already exists in Somalia and Somaliland between those that have and those that do not. At present there are a few who can afford to live comfortably and educate themselves as a result of support from family in the Diaspora or personal familial wealth. However, the majority of people, especially students are destitute.
Although Somali communities in Diaspora are still horribly divided even in the enlightened West they have settled in, it is fundamental to stress that there should be no barriers to providing financial support for the education of those who have the ability and the potential to learn and to give back to society In the future regardless of which institution they attend and what tribe or gender they may be. What matters is that we as a society care enough for our unfortunate counterparts back in Somalia and Somaliland to support them through their education in the hope that they will be able to better their prospects. Corporations should also exercise social responsibility and dip into their profits to assist those that live, work and study in the communities they make their profits.
In some ways, any support of any student in Somali or Somaliland will be aiding the development of the Somali people in their entirety and no one else, as these students are undoubtedly the future of the nation.
No one is asking anybody to contribute to the creation of an educated elite through their sponsorships or donations but what people are been encouraged to do is to contribute to the creation of a confident, well educated generation to lead the Somali people in their entirety to a better, sustainable future. By simply donating or even better, sponsoring a student through their university career, one can truly say that they are contributing to the progress of an entire people currently engulfed by poverty and division. So for this noble endeavour all people whether Somali, Somalilander and even non Somalis, are encouraged to contribute and support this cause.