Country Programmes – Somalia

Our Work in Somalia

Somalia has been without effective central government since 1991. The problems caused by civil war have been compounded by a series of severe droughts and subsequent famines, leaving Somalia one of the poorest countries in the world.


The Situation

Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 43% of its nine million population living on less than $1 a day, and 73% under $2 a day. Many of these are among the 2.6 million people internally displaced by over two decades of conflict and famine. In 2020 5.2 million people were identified as in need of humanitarian assistance with 3.5 million falling into the category of ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency food insecurity’. 

The newly-declared independent republic of Somaliland and the autonomous region of Puntland have managed to establish functioning governments but much of Somalia remains divided between clan or regional militias. The creation of a new federal government has prompted hopes for longer term stability, but uncertainty remains over the powers of constituent states. In the meantime violence and deprivation continue, with the United Nations Development Programme describing Somalia’s human development progress as “strikingly low” particularly in access to health and education.

Impact on Education

Somalia Alessandra - P1The outbreak of civil war had a devastating effect on education services in Somalia. By 1994, many schools had been destroyed, learning materials were unavailable and the majority of teachers and students had abandoned education.

Since the collapse of the education system, communities have taken different approaches to establishing locally run education services. While any progress made in the face of the collapse of public education is impressive, all these systems face enormous challenges. People whose struggle for education has always been difficult – girls and women, disabled people and displaced people – fare worst in times of uncertainty and extreme poverty.


Since declaring independence in 1991, local authorities in Somaliland have sought to restore and expand their education services, and in 2011 established free primary education within the region. However, there is still a lack of school places, qualified teachers and proper resources. Transition to secondary education is very challenging and opportunities for vocational training and higher education are limited.


Puntland has functioned as an autonomous region within Somalia since 1998, and the authorities have worked to develop education provision. There has been an increase in access to primary education recently, but more than 50% of children still do not attend school. The quality of teaching remains a major challenge, with 83% of teachers having never received teacher training. Puntland also faces challenges transitioning children to secondary school and providing vocational or higher education options.

Central and South Somalia

This region has been most affected by the ongoing conflict, and as a result there is little government provided education in the region. Education services have mainly been provided by small private-sector or charitable organisations referred to as education umbrellas since 1991. In the circumstances, their achievement in running any kind of education service is remarkable, but they only operate in larger towns and cities, and this still leaves a large majority of children out of school. It is estimated that 75% of schools in the region do not even have proper classrooms and many buildings are damaged and unsafe.

Our Involvement

AET started working in Somalia in 1996, at a time when many organisations were leaving the country after the aborted UN Peacekeeping mission. By working through local staff, organisations and institutions we have been able to continue to operate throughout the country despite successive cycles of drought, famine and conflict.

Somalia Alessandra - P2AET programmes support government and community efforts to re-establish formal education at both primary and secondary school levels. Our work in establishing AET primary and secondary school examination systems is restoring communities’ confidence in the education system as a whole. We have also partnered with local and Ugandan universities to support the training of teachers and managers to help rebuild the school system. Over the past ten years, our long history of working with education ministries has led us to support the development of the national curriculum framework.

AET also provides non-formal education opportunities for people who have missed the chance to attend school. In Somalia, our radio literacy programmes, using humorous stories on topical issues, were aired throughout the entire country and have made AET a household name. We also provide classes for displaced people, out of school youth and adults living with disabilities, in basic literacy and numeracy, alongside much needed vocational training.

In all our work, we focus on excluded groups including pastoralists and people in remote rural communities, families displaced by conflict or drought, ethnic minorities, people living with disabilities, and girls and women. We have also provided education to former combatants and police officers, in order to support the development of a more peaceful and democratic country.

Our Priorities

  • Improve accessibility and quality of formal education, especially for excluded groups such as displaced people, people living with disabilities, minorities, pastoralists and girls and women.
  • Improve the quality of learning and transition to higher education through the provision of standardised exams and the development of a national curriculum framework.
  • Promote women’s and girls’ education through girl-friendly spaces and sensitisation of schools, teachers and communities.
  • Establish recognised non-formal education using flexible delivery systems that create pathways into formal education, training or employment.
  • Provide skills training alongside literacy and basic education to engender sustainable livelihoods and resilience among marginalised groups.
  • Develop a culture of literacy, learning and reconciliation that promotes peace, and values Somali culture and traditions.


With your support, conflict doesn’t have to stop education.



Key Facts

  • Population 9 million
  • Primary school enrolment (NET)* 42%
  • Secondary school enrolment (NET)* unknown
  • Adult literacy unknown
  • Year AET started working in Somalia 1996

* regional variance

The people of Somalia don’t want education to stop and with your support we can make sure it doesn’t have to. Get involved and make a difference.

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Project Highlights

Education for Pastoralists

Working with livestock herders, this project provides basic literacy, numeracy and practical life skills to both adults and children in pastoralist communities. Most of these communities have never had the opportunity for education because of their remote location and nomadic lifestyle.

Opportunities for Out of School Youth

Through Education Cannot Wait, AET is supporting over 1400 out of school youth to Access Basic Education and support their transition into formal education. 


Girl-Friendly Spaces

Schools in Somalia have long been male-dominated, and do not always provide well for girls. To encourage girls’ attendance in secondary schools, AET pioneered the provision of girl-friendly spaces for study and after-school clubs, as well as sanitation facilities. This approach has now been adopted as government policy at regional level.

Support for People Living with Disabilities

Children and adults living with disabilities face social stigma and enormous challenges when it comes to accessing education and training. AET supports the development of a locally driven disability movement to promote the inclusion of children living with disabilities into mainstream schools, better access for both children and adults to specialist centres for education and training, and changes in government policy and public attitudes to disability.

Somali-wide Education

The regional conflict has fractured the formal education system. We supported the national and regional education authorities to establish a national curriculum framework linked to the national examination system for primary and secondary school leavers so that students can move freely between regions and access universities in neighbouring countries.   This process was also used as an opportunity to consult with young Somalis on how the curriculum can best promote peace and reconciliation among students. 

Education Cannot Wait 

In Jubaland and Galmudug, Somalia AET is implementing Education Cannot Wait in 20 schools in communities with high numbers of returnee or displaced populations. Providing school rehabilitation, teacher training and incentives, cash grants for school improvements such as accessibility for children with disabilities, scholarships to over 750 children in poverty, over 21,000 sanitary kits to girls and 4000 solar lamps to enable home study – AET is working hard with communities to improve educational outcomes in these emergency situations. 

Vocational Education and Training (VET Toolbox) 

Funded by the EU this provides over 450 out of school youth the life skills to generate a livelihood or find formal employment. Linked to the apprenticeships and micro-loans this project promotes independence and micro-economic development working with prominent and emerging trades to provide a workforce for the future development of Somalia.