As some clerics use the pulpit to discredit privately owned educational excellence institutions in Somaliland
By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somaliland sun) – Students crisscross the compound of Abaarso School as they prepare for resumption of classes after a one month holiday that enabled them join their parents and relatives in observing the annual Ramadan fast
In the meantime an orientation session for newly registered students from all over Somaliland continue oblivious of rumours circulating Hargeisa purporting that learning at the school is contrary to Islamic religious tenets and local traditions.
This allegation made by two clerics at a local mosque in Hargeisa targeted the schools predominant foreign teaching staffs which are over 15 and from various European countries and the United States of America incidentally home to Jonathan Starr the Founder of Abaarso School of Technology situated 16kms west of the Somaliland capital.
According to Nura Mahmud Gureh the chairperson of the School’s Board of Trustees the oft allegations about non conformity to local traditions and religious tenets in relation between teaching staff and students at Abaarso school “is a feeble attempt at marring the 100% success at the institution, by people with ill will against the country”
M/s Nura was reacting to the recent pulpit based condemnation of the School by two clerics whose motive was self-seeking, somalilandsun has confirmed, since they are shareholders in two Hargeisa based private schools that are losing students to Abaarso.
As a parent and chairpersons of the institutions Board of Trustees Nura Mahmud Gureh says she has full confidence in Abaarso School especially the very dedicated teaching staff, facts that are related to having deferred returning to her adopted home in the states since her school age children could receive an education of international standards locally while interacting with their relatives thus accrue knowledge of traditions and culture.
Brushing aside what she termed as malicious attacks, the Abaarso parent was proud revealing the latest achievement by the School in which 18 old Miss Najah Mohamed Saeed will undertake her 12th grade studies in Pennsylvania courtesy of ASSIST, a USA government educational program
“Somaliland is the only African country participating in the USA funded , a programme that takes young students from third world and developed countries to America for a year” said Ms Nura Adding that the global program was attracted to the yet unrecognized country due to the internationally acceptable learning procedures utilized by Abaarso School.
Urging Somalilanders to support local institutions that distinguish in their sectors Ms Nura Gureh said that it was impossible for a school operating outside local cultural and religious norms to attract prominent Somaliland personalities as parents
giving a few examples she named
For Abaarso School the 18 year old girl is not the first of its students to participate in the ASSIST program or Join prestigious institutions of higher learning in various parts of the world.
In the recent past numerous students from the school have secured scholarships to prestigious institutions globally where they rub shoulders with the cream from developed and developing world as a result of their proper Schooling at Abaarso where none fails.
Abaarso founded by Jonathan Starr in 2008 as a non-profit organization and funded by contributions and grants from a variety of donors around the world had its first students get scholarships to study in the U.S three years ago, becoming the first in over a generation to be given scholarships to study abroad after a worldwide selection process. Among them Abdisamad Adan, a 21-year-old who graduated from Abaarso currently pursuing a Bachelor degree at Harvard University where about 95% of applicants are rejected annually
All in all Forty Abaarso alumni are in the United States, studying at schools such as Harvard University, Worchester Academy ,Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown , Yale, Brown , Amherst College and Carnegie Mellon Universities.
For the young Najah born in Hargeisa and with aspirations for a career in international relations her pride is not only being a product of her prestigious Abaarso, a school in the middle of nowhere and the opportunity of a year’s schooling abroad but having to legally travel to the USA with her Somaliland passport
According to the Dean of Student life Ms Jennie Bromberg, success at the Abaarso School is as a result of the combination of highly experienced and dedicated teaching staff and the holistic approach to learning that through rigorous curriculum that focuses on math, science and technology and English.
On her second tour at the school where she also doubles as a science teacher, Ms Bromberg an American citizen says that despite the divergence in culture between Somaliland and her native Ohio, there is an ease of adaptation facilitated by a very cooperative Parents and student bodies as well as through regular interaction with local Abaarso community.
“One of the reasons that I signed on to teach at Abaarso for another year is because I have enjoyed getting to know the culture and traditions of Somaliland
says Ms Bromberg revealing that the student population of 225 is further boost to her belief in the good she is doing for young and bright citizens of Somaliland.
Unperturbed by the recent rumour mongering that also include Nile Academy, a Gulen movement run institution in Hargeisa, the Headmaster of Abaarso School dubbed by VOA as the Somaliland School Launching Pad to Sending Students Abroad , James Linville says the system of learning practiced has passed ministry of education muster, an there are no plans to change anything.
At the moment our main focus is orientating the 70 new students ( 50 7th graders and 20 older students) who were enrolled after a strenuous selection process carried out in regions of Somaliland apart from Sool of which we plan to visit next year having included for the first time Awdal and Sanaag regions in the 2016 recruitment.
Brushing aside the rumoured misconduct against students at his school the 27 years old New Yorker says the increasing number of new enrolments which are all from the cream of the country, the large number of requests for ennoblement as well as the continued availability of scholarships to prestigious university globally is testimony enough good things are happening educationally at Abaarso school.
In conclusion the Headmaster reveals that the management of ABAARSO is establishing an institution of higher learning in jalelolo area East of Hargeisa called Barwaqo University which shall initial focus on teacher training.
But in the meantime as malice is spread left and right and stakeholders of Abaarso school continue traditions of excellence in learning one will not wonder Why a school in the middle of nowhere means the world to its students