U of A Faculty of Education helps restore Somali university

EDMONTON, March 10, 2014 /CNW/ - The University of Alberta (U of A) Faculty of Education is helping revive a Somali university ravaged by civil war.

In the early 1990s, Somali National University (SNU) was forced to suspend classes when conflict decimated the East African country. After more than two decades of violence, Somalia has now achieved a level of stability necessary for its government to start rebuilding infrastructure. In November 2013, officials announced that it would be finally be reviving SNU, at an expected cost of $3.6 million USD.

The U of A Faculty of Education has stepped up to help with a critical part of this massive project: the recreation of SNU's Faculty of Education.

"As we speak, the level of education in the country is extremely weak. The majority of people have no education at all," explains Dr. Ali Abdi, a U of A education professor and co-director of the Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Research. As a result, there are very few teachers in the country. "If you don't have teachers, the quality of education will be weak and undeveloped. In that sense, a faculty of education is extremely important," he says.

In 2013, SNU's newly appointed rector and a former Edmontonian - Dr. Mohamed Jimale - visited campus on two occasions to discuss how the U of A could help SNU. It was decided that the faculty would help meet the immediate need for resources (specifically books for SNU's education library) and a long-term need for staff training.

For several months, Dr. George Richardson, associate dean of international initiatives, with the aid of an informal "Somali National University Contact Group" from across the Faculty, gathered up-to-date academic books from other faculty members to send to SNU. In March 2014, the faculty mailed more than 400 books. Those books have now arrived in Mogadishu and, hopefully will be in the shelves of SNU's library very soon.

At the moment, Richardson and Ali are working with UNESCO, SNU officials - including both Jimale and the new faculty's dean, U of A alumnus Fouzia Warsame - to  plan for seminars for future staff. U of A faculty members will donate their time and expertise for these sessions, which will likely be held just over the border, in Nairobi, Kenya. Online workshops aren't possible because of a lack of technological infrastructure.

The U of A Faculty of Education has a long history of international development work, says Richardson. A few years ago, the U of A Faculty of Education and CMASTE made headlines when it helped several Iraqi institutions rebuild their teacher education programs after the war. The faculty has also led projects in Tanzania, South Africa and several other African nations. "In the broadest sense, we see it this work as fundamental to our mandate as a teacher education institution and the idea of global citizenship," says Richardson.

SOURCE: University of Alberta Faculty of Education

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Dr. George Richardson 

Dr. Ali Abdi 

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