Rebuilding aid for Somalia

July 25, 1997

THE European Union is helping reconstruct Somalian higher education, ravaged by civil war.

Sigurd Illing, EU special envoy to Somalia, says that for six years there has been nothing beyond basic education in the northeast African country.

Higher education had been unstable even before the civil war levelled most education facilities.

"This ended with the collapse of the Somalia National University in 1991," said Michael O'Leary of the European Commission's Somalia Unit in Nairobi.

The project will support 180 former students at the university, just some of the 5,500 students who did not complete their courses when the university, the only one in the country, collapsed.

The EU has established four pre-university study centres where the students will learn English and study skills. The successful ones will get scholarships to study at other African universities.

"Priority will go to those interested in working in Somalia after completion of their studies," says Dr O'Leary.

The project will also give assistance to those who had qualified to enter university in 1991.

The London-based Africa Educational Trust says: "On average 870 students qualified each year for university admission before the civil war."

Unesco has recommended that the funds should benefit students studying agriculture, livestock husbandry, health, education and administration. The EU is already working on other projects involving livestock, health, sanitation and basic education projects.

However, donor officials on the ground in Somalia argue they are hard to implement because of the general shortage of skilled labour power, worsened by the civil war.

The EU is asking countries with large cohorts of Somali professionals to develop schemes to encourage their return to Somalia.

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