Incredible! Somali Woman Overcomes Cultural Barriers and Embarks on Journey to Higher Education
Sunday July 23, 2023
The phenomenal and awe-inspiring education journey of Najma Abdullahi Qarey, a 24-year-old Somali woman, is as bewildering as it is inspiring.
Abdullahi, against all odds, defied the traditional expectations imposed upon her by her community. In a society that believes marrying off their daughters at a young age is the only way to preserve their dignity, Abdullahi refused to let marriage hinder her insatiable thirst for knowledge. With sheer determination, she overcame countless obstacles that obstructed the educational opportunities of her peers.
“My childhood aspiration was to pursue the highest level of education, despite my community’s dismissive attitude towards educating girls. My parents, although overprotective, did not wish to see me unmarried beyond my puberty stage,” she revealed during a recent interview with Xinhua in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
“To avoid being disrespectful towards my parents, I agreed to marry my childhood sweetheart, who turned out to be incredibly supportive of my educational endeavors,” Abdullahi shared.
Zakaria Abdullahi, Abdullahi’s husband, employed in the Ministry of Education in Somalia’s Galmudug state, defied the mounting pressure from his male acquaintances who mocked him for shouldering childcare responsibilities while his wife pursued a degree in public administration.
Zakaria firmly believed that supporting and sacrificing for his wife’s education was in the best interest of their family, as she would serve as a role model for their children.
“I am indescribably proud of my wife’s indomitable spirit,” Zakaria proudly proclaimed. He added that mothers play a significant role in raising children, and educating them would undoubtedly have a positive impact on their offspring.
In February of this year, Abdullahi found herself among the remarkable 44 students who successfully completed their undergraduate degrees at the prestigious Horn of Africa University, one of Somalia’s finest higher education institutions accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education. She received numerous accolades during the graduation ceremony.
The Somalia Integrated Household Budget Survey (SIHBS-2022), the first national survey of its kind since 1985, reveals that nearly two-thirds of the country’s population lack formal education.
Only a mere 4.6 percent of the population claim to have completed secondary education, while a mere 4 percent have attained higher education. The youth represent the most educated group, with a literacy rate of 53.7 percent.
As per the survey, the rates of higher education attainment among individuals in the 20-24 and 25-29 age brackets are 14.2 percent and 12.2 percent respectively.
Among nomads, a staggering 92.5 percent report no formal education, while in rural areas, two-thirds, or 68.6 percent, lack formal education. Only 3 percent of rural residents have completed secondary schooling, and a mere 1.7 percent have obtained higher education.
The survey highlights a significant discrepancy in literacy rates between males and females, with a rate of 63.6 percent for males and 45.3 percent for females. The literacy rates also differ significantly across age groups, with the younger population exhibiting the highest literacy rates, while the elderly display the lowest literacy rates.
Abdullahi acknowledged that juggling education and family responsibilities was no easy feat, but she credits her supportive husband for enabling her to fulfill her academic dreams.
The devoted mother of three children intends to pursue a post-graduate degree in public administration and serve as a role model for young girls aspiring to attain formal education at higher levels.
Local leaders, such as Galmudug Senator Siciid Siyad Shirwac, have been urging communities to prioritize the education of girls to facilitate socio-economic transformation from the grassroots level.