Bless or curse; by: prof. Abdi Ali Jama
|Prof. Abdi Ali Jama|
The introduction of Somali language script in 1972 was remarkable milestone that Somali people long aspired for. Siad Barre is said to had achieved that goal. However, the biggest mistake he had done is introducing it so early into Education and government administration that did more harm than good. This more than offsets any credibility that Siad Barre could have been given in this
account like he failed in all other fronts.
Literacy campaign for spreading Somali language script launched by the Revolutionary government in 1970s was correct step to enable masses both rural and urban write and read their own language so that they would be good citizens. However, the biggest blunder was rendering it medium of instruction in schools while there is no Somali library as well as adopting it as sole official language in government administration sooner than required.
In my opinion, Somali language should had been confined to masses so that they can read news papers in Somali script, be able to write and read mails from relatives, friends and government authorities. Literacy also helps people cast their vote in democracy.
As for Education, feeble minded Siad Barre single-handedly ordered to use Somali language as medium of instruction across the board from elementary to Secondary level. Due to this, quality of education plummeted to unprecedented level. However, It is a bless to give Somali students the oppurtuinty to learn with their own mother tongue; but that needs planning and introducing it gradually so that it would not compromise quality. You cannot do that while you know that the Somali library is void of reference books and other resources in virtually every field of knowledge unless you are irresponsible and ignorant as Siad Barre.
I, myself, as survivor of this calamity, remember that as a student back in my secondary school days, we had one and only one hastly prepared somali edition for each subject. I still feel the agony of how much we were deprived of taking advantage of a very big library in my seconday school that was full of Biology, physics, chemistry and math books but all in engilsh. With out exaggeration, I can say we were literally blindfolded and defeaned by that brutal, ignorant dicatator.
In my opinion, it was great error committed against successive generations to Somalize education curriculum before preparing adequate material resources for Somali students so that quality of education would not be traded off and hence bless turns into curse!!!
The same way, introducing of Somali language into government offices lowered efficiency of government administration, especially when Siad Barre preferred compliance over competency which eroded the adminsitrive capacity of government authority. Uneducated loyals (Kacaan), but now can write and read Somali, were promoted to positons that they do not qualify for. In other words, It happened that educted people were replaced by graduates of Somali language campaing literacy and thereby state failure had begun.
The best strategy, in my view, could had been to use Somali language scripts for mails that government usually sends to citizens. But other adimistrative paper work should not had been Somalized so early.
As for now, education in Somaliland is actually in English medium apart from some Arabic schools. This is a good step for reversing the process. English is widely used in government offices along with official Somali language. This is right direction but we have not to go to the other extreme by ignoring Somali language. We have to allocate resources along with Somali speaking authorities in the region to develop scientific and admin terms as we go over time. But now, Somali language cannot be used as medium of instruction in Education. Perhaps we can use it in offices but always hand in hand with English.
prof. Abdi Ali Jama