Türkiye Scholarships, Turkey’s immensely popular scholarship program for international students, have attracted the attention of Somali youths who plan to take advantage of their country’s strengthening ties with Turkey.
Since Turkey and Somalia revived their ties with a landmark visit in 2011 by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, thousands of Somalis have benefited from the Türkiye Scholarships program and realized their dream of graduating.
More than 10 years later, a large number of Somali students continue to enroll in the program each year, and Somalia becomes one of the best countries in Africa for sending students to Turkey for higher education. A large number of them return to their country to start careers. Former students include Somalia’s Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, who was trained in Turkey after becoming a diplomat and served as Minister of Justice before taking up his current position.
But not all Somali students want to go to Turkey to get a university education. Anisa Abduqadir Ali, 19, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that over the past two years she has tried to travel to Turkey several times to complete her high school education. She said she dropped out of high school in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region because of insecurity and her father’s low income. Since her aunt lives in the Turkish capital Ankara, she has dreamed of going to Turkey to finish high school and then be admitted to a university to study medicine.
Mohamed Mohamud, deputy head of the Somali Turkey Alumni Association, told AA in an interview in the capital Mogadishu that according to the number of scholarships awarded to Somalis since 2011, Somalia is the largest beneficiary of Turkish scholarships in Africa. Mohamed also studied in Turkey and graduated from Fırat University in Elazığ. After returning to his country, Mohamed became the Vice-Chancellor of one of Somalia’s best universities, SIMAD University. “I can estimate that almost 5,000 plus active Somali students are in Turkey right now. More than 9,000 Somali students went to Turkey either through a Turkish scholarship, in whole or in part, or were self-sponsored,” said Mohamed. He noted that the majority of Somali students are finishing their studies, but there are a number of Somali students dropping out.
He said that Turkey is partly a European country with a high standard of living. Those who returned to Somalia play different roles in the country. They work in the field of education such as high schools, universities or colleges, or public institutions, especially the Swedish Immigration Service and the airport. Some of them have established their own companies from franchise agreements of international companies based in Turkey.
Speaking about the Turkish scholarship program, Mohamed said that it played a crucial role in the development of Somalia. “It created hope for many Somali youths to continue their education abroad. It became part of the peace-building process in Somalia because if everyone is well educated, we will have a better and peaceful society,” he said.
Mohamed Isse Abdullahi was one of Somalia’s first students to apply for the scholarship in Turkey. He studied theology, economics, management and organizational leadership at Uludağ University. He told AA that there are some challenges facing Somali students in Turkey: Among them is the language barrier. He said that Turkish universities teach everything in the Turkish language and that it is one of the biggest challenges that Somali students face when it comes to education.
Abdulkarim Abdulle also studied in Turkey. He says that the high standard of the education system in Turkey together with other political and economic factors make Turkey a top choice.
“Somalia has been one of the main recipients of the scholarship since (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s first visit to Mogadishu in 2011,” said Abdulle. “Students go to Turkey for both undergraduate and graduate studies because of the privileges and priority given to Somali students,” he said.
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