Conflict and civil war have plagued Somalia for decades. In recent years, drought and famine have added to the crisis, ultimately leaving much of the country, and the education system, in disarray. In November, a new government was formed, and Bashir-Ali was appointed to the Education Ministry.
Bashir-Ali is the education sector coordination expert for Somalia. She oversees all education projects and activities in Somalia and advises the government on how to develop the education system in the country. “I basically act as a liaison between international donors, nongovernmental organizations and the government,” she said. “I also look for more opportunities to improve the access and quality of education in Somalia by contacting nontraditional donors and other organizations.”
There are many challenges providing education in a country with a new and fragile government. Bashir-Ali points out three main factors that hinder education in Somalia are access to education, quality of education and equity of resources. “Not many children have access to education,” she said. “There is not a quality education system, in terms of qualified teachers, safe and secure environments, teaching and learning material. There is no equity in education in terms of serving the various communities: rural, urban, pastoralist and girls.”
The United Nations estimates that Somalia has more than 1.5 million internally displaced people, making it very difficult to maintain a functional education system.
Previously, Bashir-Ali managed the Somali Interactive Radio Instruction Program (SIRIP) through the Education Development Center, which is based in the United States. Since 2005, SIRIP has provided free educational programming via radio and supplemental materials for children in schools across Somalia, focusing on grades 1-5.
A native of Mogadishu, Somalia, Bashir- Ali came to Goshen College in 1981 to study French. She says her experience at Goshen College helped shape her future work. “While I was student, I learned about the notion of being of service to our fellow human beings,” she said. “I felt welcome, a part of a family, and received a sound education that prepared me to make a living and be of service to my people.”
– Brian Yoder Schlabach ’07