“Every Thursday, the BBC broadcasted our SOMDEL programmes. The presenter and radio teacher – ‘Shamza’ – was a celebrity throughout Somalia because of our programmes. Each programme commenced with a short lesson on the Somali language, followed by a feature on a topic of local interest. These topics were important in themselves for spreading knowledge on health and well-being, agricultural practice, and the environment. We had features on HIV prevention, midwifery, the effects of smoking, livestock management, peace-building and how to prevent TB spreading. People would listen for the ‘Jingle’ announcing the start of the programme and whole families would listen in.
After introducing the topic, Shamza would then invite an expert in the field to talk about the issue. To ensure understanding and to reinforce learning, the topic was then presented in dramatic form as a short play. Everyone could understand and relate to the topic through the medium of drama.
Later in the project, the programmes were recorded on to cassette and local teachers could use the lessons to support adult literacy and numeracy in a more formal classroom setting. Adults over 15 were able to attend adult literacy and numeracy lessons which featured the programmes but were supported by text books and facilitated by local tutors. Adult illiteracy and numeracy were very high in Somalia at that time due to insecurity, poverty, the nomadic lifestyle of our people and food and grazing shortages.
SOMDEL was endorsed by the Somaliland Ministry of Education and we could provide accredited exams for our students at three levels. This enabled them to progress to formal school or vocational training such as midwifery, nursing or teacher training.
Most importantly, people learnt the basic skills for life:
– Small shop holders could accurately count their money and stock;
– Parents understood and could encourage their children’s learning at school;
– People in remote areas could use mobile texts to order supplies in town and negotiate prices.
When our students graduated, a large ceremony was held with dignitaries and the media attending. Such was the importance of the programme to local people.”