Friday, November 23, 2012
By Majid Ahmed
School children listen to their teacher at al-Anwar Primary school in Mogadishu's Dharkeynley District. A new radio station with educational programmes will help children learn to read when they cannot attend school. [Majid Ahmed/Sabahi]
Somalis who are unable to attend traditional schools can now learn to read and write by listening to educational programmes offered on Radio Iftin, a station that began broadcasting a few months ago in Mogadishu on 94.5 FM.
Radio Iftin is the first radio station in the country to offer purely educational content, benefiting atypical students, such as members of poor communities, internally displaced persons and residents of rural areas.
The only thing students need is an alphabet book to follow along during the radio literacy programme.
Radio hosts start lessons by breaking down the alphabet in sections, teaching listeners how to pronounce each letter and then spell and pronounce basic words. During broadcasts, parents are encouraged to participate and function as tutors to help their children practice writing.
The station also offers daily educational programmes on Islam, adult literacy, and civic education, and weekly programmes on issues ranging from Somalia's history, culture, and heritage, to conflict resolution and women's role in society. Most of the programmes cater to children and youth, according to Radio Iftin's website.
"Other local stations in Somalia only focus on political issues, but Radio Iftin deals with social issues such as education, health, human rights and educating rural communities on preserving the environment," said Mohamed Ahmed, an official at Radio Iftin.
"Somali society is an avid consumer of news, so our programmes will play a prominent role in alleviating illiteracy and promoting education," he told Sabahi. "Radio Iftin will work to raise awareness of the importance of sending school-aged children to school."
He said that even people who do not learn to read and write through the programmes will become more informed members of society.
Although privately owned local radio stations have proliferated in Somalia, where more than 23 radio stations are operating in the capital alone, Radio Iftin is the only dedicated educational station.
Advancing education in Somalia
Hussein Abdi, an education official at the African Aid Organisation, which runs several private schools in Somalia, said the opening of an educational station is an important step towards advancing education in the country.
Children sit in a class at SYL Primary School in Mogadishu's Hodan District. School children who are unable to attend school can now get educational programmes though Radio Iftin. [Majid Ahmed/Sabahi]
"The establishment of this educational station is very beneficial, and thousands of people, especially those that have never had the opportunity to get an education -- such as those that come from poor communities or internally displaced persons -- will benefit from the educational programmes offered by this radio station," he told Sabahi. "The media can play an important role in education and guidance and the station is a strong tool that could reach a large audience."
"The programmes presented by this station will contribute towards eradicating illiteracy among Somalis because they offer educational opportunities for segments of society that cannot send their children to school," Abdi said.
Due to two decades of civil unrest, literacy and school enrolment rates are low in Somalia, particularly among rural communities and internally displaced persons.
"The education sector has been in dire need of such an educational station and we hope this station can achieve its educational goals," said Omar Mohamed, a teacher at Nur Secondary School who specialises in methodology.
"In a country like Somalia, where illiteracy rates are high and are coupled with security problems that stand in the way of students attending school, giving children the chance to learn remotely is of utmost importance," he told Sabahi.
Ayan Ahmed, a 38-year-old mother of four who lives in the Saybiano shelter for the homeless in Mogadishu, said Radio Iftin has given her children the chance to learn how to read and write.
"My children do not go to school because we have not been able to pay the school fees," she told Sabahi. "My children would have faced a dismal future were it not for the educational programmes provided by the station."
"We would like to profusely thank everyone that has helped launch this station and we hope that Radio Iftin can offer successful and useful programmes for everyone," she said.