Part 2: Al Shabaab’s Education System And Child Fighters

Regular Schools

In order to appear to be doing some public good, AS also runs regular schools that are optional and attended by students whose clans have sent the allocated number of children to the AS recruitment schools.6 Students dress in school uniforms that would not seem out of place anywhere in Somalia, and the teachers are fairly qualified; however, due to mistrust of AS, parents are unwilling to pay school fees or send their children to these schools.

This has forced some local Education Offices to introduce taxes to subsidise the schools, further adding to the already high taxes in AS territory. These schools teach an AS-designed syllabus, whose latest version is for the school year 1438- 1439 (2017-2018). Subjects taught are Arabic; Islamic Education – which is three subjects: Tawheed (oneness of God), Fiqh (Islamic law), Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet); History, Geography, Mathematics, and Somali.

There is no teaching of science in most regions, although at least one region has a basic science textbook.7 The language of teaching is Somali but textbooks are in Arabic. The Islamic schools run by AS sometimes ‘steal’ promising students from the regular AS schools by offering them a fast-track system. In 6-12 months, students can graduate as a Da’i (someone who does Da’wa – recruiters who propagate Al Shabaab ideas).

In the Islamist world, this is very irregular and unacceptable, as one is required to undergo official education to be qualified as a Da’i, and has alarmed parents, who mostly chose to send their children to government areas to pursue education. While most sent-away kids are boys, girls whom parents suspect are about to marry an AS man are also sent to other regions of the Somali World.

This has caused AS to close down some regular schools due to lack of students. Emulating the long arm of Al-Shabab’s military wings, the AS Education Office is trying to impose its curriculum on areas outside its control by using terror tactics. Some education officials remarked to their staff in mid-2017 (during Ramadan) that the AS educational syllabus will be made mandatory even in areas not controlled by the group, such as in Mogadishu and Kismayo.

The group has started this process by declaring that the education system must be taught in Arabic even in government areas. Given the group’s declining fortunes, it is unlikely that it will be able to enforce this policy on a wide scale across the country.

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