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Science - Education

Puntland (Somalia) to introduce free primary schools

afrol News, 6 April - In Puntland, an autonomous territory in north-eastern Somalia, primary school teachers are to receive their salaries by the local government, the region's President has announced. Puntland thus will become the first part of Somalia where the state takes on some responsibilities for primary education.

In all of Somalia, primary education is currently paid for and organised by parents groups or by Muslim organisations. Traditionally, parents also have had to bear full responsibility for the payment of teachers.

Puntland President Mohamud Muse Hirsi "Adde" this week however announced that the regional government was to inaugurate salary payments for primary school teachers. Puntland is a semi-autonomous state within Somalia. It has its own president, but unlike neighbouring Somaliland - which declared independence in 1991 - Puntland has always vowed to remain an integral part of Somalia.

Some 200 teachers now stand to benefit from the move by the Puntland leader, according to the UN's Children's Fund (UNICEF). The President of Puntland also announced a massive drive to build more schools in Northeast Somalia during a speech he made in Bossaso, the regional capital, on Tuesday.

According to UNICEF, this was the first time since the conclusion of Somalia's peace talks in 2004, that the Puntland leader has openly committed his administration to the goals of 'education for all' and to gender parity in access, retention and completion in basic education. The move follows consistent advocacy with the Puntland authorities to increase budgetary allocations to education and other social sectors as a means of encouraging sustainable development.

The UN agency today praised the move by the Puntland leader. "The President's announcement marks a milestone in Somalia's education history and demonstrates a very real commitment by the administration," commented UNICEF's Siddharth Chatterjee. "The payment of teachers' salaries will free parents of a major financial burden and will remove a significant obstacle in getting all children, and especially girls, to access and complete their primary education," he added.

The announcements made by President "Adde" came at a Bossaso ceremony to mark the formal launch of the UNICEF-supported Integrated Primary Education Programme. The programme aims to strengthen basic education in Somalia and Somaliland, "with special emphasis on fulfilling the education rights of girls and other vulnerable children," according to the UN agency.

The programme was said to be a collaboration between UNICEF, the European Commission, the Puntland administration and local communities. Similar programmes were to be implemented in Somaliland and in central and southern Somalia, the UN agency announced today.

In contrast to southern Somalia and Puntland, the self-declared republic of Somaliland has had a functional education system during the last years. The Somaliland government operates a number of primary and secondary schools and has even financed the establishment of several universities. School enrolment rates however remain too low, also in Somaliland.

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