Although a bright student Ruweyda Hassan, 17, a resident of Galkayo town in Somalia’s northeastern semiautonomous province of Puntland has fears that she will be pulled out of school.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on phone, from Galkayo, 550 kilometers (341miles) from capital Mogadishu, she said her parents are unwilling to allow her to pursue education further.
“I was preparing to enroll in the secondary school that my father told me that family wants my early marriage. It is outrageous and heartbreaking,” she said.
Even as the whole country is witnessing a high dropping out rate of girls from schools, it has reached alarming proportions in the Puntland province.
According to official estimates, while 51.9% of girls were enrolled in primary schools, there were just 9.7% of them in secondary schools.
A disgruntled Hassan, who is now about to give up her dream to pursue higher education has urged the government to improve the environment for girl education and stop the practice of early marriages by enacting legislation.
A teacher Ahmed Hassan, said rampant poverty and limited resources were the main reasons for girls dropping out of high schools.
“Last year two of the brightest female students dropped out the school because they couldn’t afford to pay the school fees. One of them got married the other one went to Europe to work there and support her family”, he said.
Puntland Minister of Education Abdullahi Mohamed Hassan said about 50% of school-aged children in the region are out of school. The current restrictions due to COVID-19 have made matters much worse.
“In secondary schools, the net enrollment rate is just 13% with 17.2% for boys and 9.7% for girls which is very low,” said Women Development Minister Amina Osman Haji.
Bright students forced out of schools
Salim Said Salim, former dean of Puntland State faculty of law identified issues like poverty, early marriage, and lack of friendly environment in secondary schools and colleges as reasons for girls to opt to stay home after completing primary education.
“Some families can’t afford to pay the secondary school fees or even universities then the girls will become breadwinners to support the family,” he said.
Salim said the limited access to secondary education in remote coastal and rural areas makes parents hesitant to send their girls to pursue education. Even bright students are forced out of school.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sheikh Abdulqadir Thani, a religious scholar, and activist asked people to educate girls.
“Our Islamic principles teach us that educating girls is very important. Throughout Islamic history, we have had top female scholars such as our mother Aisha Bint Abii Bakar (The wife of Prophet Muhammad). We are encouraging the parents not to pull out girls from schools,” he said.
The Father of two girls Hussein Ibrahim Tima, who runs a barbershop in the capital of Mogadishu said while he was illiterate, he wanted to educate his daughters.
The civil war in Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, since the 1990s has destroyed the educational system. But over the past seven years, the country has seen a significant number of universities and schools producing homegrown quality graduates.