- With the opening of the Burao University, the unrecognised and self-sustained Republic of Somaliland now counts on four universities. This exceptional density of educational centres has been made possible by bold government policies and the financial support of many Somalilander exiles.
Seven years ago, the Amoud High School in Borama, west of Somaliland's capital Hargeisa, was turned into the country's first university. Sixty students were admitted to the Amoud University in the summer of 1997 and most of them graduated four years later. These first Somaliland graduates already play an important part in the country's administration, in addition to the many well educated returned exiles that were educated abroad.
This summer, Somaliland authorities were able to open the country's fourth university, the Burao University. Meanwhile, the Hargeisa University is graduating its first-ever students. Berbera University - located in Somaliland's second city and important port - is next in line to host its fist graduation ceremonies.
For the town of Burao, the establishment of a university is especially important. The administrative centre of the Togdheer province in central Somaliland is located where the periphery of the country starts and has for years been in need of reconstruction after warfare in the early 1990s.
The Burao University nevertheless takes up the heritance from a technical institute that was constructed with German state aid but left in ruins by earlier hostilities. Consequently, the town's new university plans to specialise on engineering and technical studies. Somalilanders hope to catch the interest of German authorities in securing funds for the Burao University as a manner of continuity.
Funds so far have, however, not come from abroad. Somalilanders clearly take pride in their successes in building their nation without significant foreign aid. "The people of Somaliland have shown to the international community and the wider world that they do not require UN aid or IMF loans in order to rebuild their country from scratch," a fundraising document of the important Diaspora organisation Somaliland Forum proudly notes.
The Somaliland Diaspora has plaid an important part in financing the country's four universities and in raising funds to reconstruct Burao. Former graduates of the old Technical Institute of Burao have been among the many contributing with private assets.
While Somaliland has made great efforts in building a national educational grid in record time, there are concerns over the sustainability of the new investments. The Hargeisa government, as it is not recognised as by the international community, has very limited revenues and trade links are instable.
Voices in the country thus urge the four universities to cooperate in delivering educational services to Somalilanders instead of competing. Noah Arre recently told the Somalilander independent media Awdal News that "considering our limited resources," Somaliland's universities needed to specialise in "different fields of studies" instead of competing.
Already, the Amoud University is specialising in medicine, education, business administration, agriculture and environment studies. Hargeisa University seems to head off to a specialisation in political and humanistic studies, while Berbera University has greater competence in geo-sciences and ecology. Burao is set to go for technology and engineering.
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