Last year, Tahir Mustefe was travelling 11 Km on foot to get to a secondary school found in Qebri Beyah town of the Somali Region daily. But the new administration of the Region built a new high school in the outskirts of Qebri Beyah recently, as part of the plan to expand educational coverage in the Region. This school was inaugurated a couple of months ago and students have been enrolled. Tahir is one of the students that enrolled in the newly built school.
“Now, I don't have to travel 11 km to school and back again on a daily basis since the new school is just a few meters away from my home,” he says.
According to the Somali Region Education Bureau 45 secondary schools, 20 primary schools and 5 boarding schools have been built while 5 schools have been maintained and furnished In the last three years of the Ethiopian calendar which is 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Similarly primary and secondary schools have been built and inaugurated recently in Qebri Beyah, Fafen and Degehabur areas. But, these schools are not equipped with basic facilities. “Though I am happy that I have to continue my 10th grade education at a nearby school; basic facilities like chairs, tables, black boards and books are very inadequate,” says Tahir. He is also worried that this school doesn't have a laboratory.
Tilahun Hailu, who is a history teacher at the school, agrees that the schools have inadequate facilities. He says the Woreda and Zonal education managements have promised to provide materials “I hope they do it quickly before it is too late” he says.
Amina Bashir is also a 9th grade student in a newly built high school in Degehabur Woreda. She says that the school doesn't have enough teachers for some subjects. “How can we be able to get the necessary education if there are not enough teachers for all the subjects?” she asks.
The officials in the Regional Education Bureau claim that integrated and immediate efforts are being done to reach all the new schools and equip them with the basic materials. The Bureau's Head, Mr. Mohammed Fatah Mohammed says that the region together with the Ministry of Education is assembling different materials to send to all the schools. “We have been focusing on providing the basic needs and materials that are needed for the schools,” he says.
According to the Bureau Head, the region invested more than 420 million ETB to build new schools in all the zones in the past 3 years. He says, while some of them are still in construction, others have been made to start giving services including the boarding schools in the region.
The official website of the Ministry of Education states that there are currently 46,361 schools in Ethiopia, and according to the data from Somali regional state Education Bureau there are 222 secondary schools, 1775 alternative basic education schools and 1852 primary schools in Somali Regional state. Given the wider geographic area of the Region and its people's pastoral way of life, Somali Region has lower distribution of primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions in comparison to other regions of Ethiopia.
The Region has two public universities (Jigjiga and Qebri Dehar), public and private colleges, and several elementary and secondary schools. The number of these institutions has been increasing exceedingly in the past few years throughout the zones and districts.
Even though building schools in lowland regions such as Somali has a remarkable contribution to the development of the country in general, there seems limited effort to equip those schools with rudimentary facilities. Both the Federal and Regional government need to take rapid and determinant roles in equipping these schools. According to the Bureau head, the Regional government Education Bureau has taken the issue of these schools' facilities as primary concern in order to improve the teaching-learning process.