A Brief History of the Oldest Public Schools in East Africa

Due to years of severe and prolonged armed conflicts, civil war and recurrent droughts, few children in East Africa get the opportunity to go to school. The region has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates for primary school-aged children with approximately 18 percent of children in rural households enrolled. (UNICEF)

The shortage of free-public schools is barring many children from attending schools, forcing many youth to migrate to Europe or North America in order to seek educational opportunities that should be available to all children. Education serves a multitude of purposes and is crucial to individual personal development and the growth of society as a whole. When children within a community have equal opportunity to get educated, it cultivates positive change and growth within the community.

Abyan Public School formerly known as Las Anod Primary School is the only free-school in the city of Las Anod providing educational opportunities to the kids of Sool region. This school was established and built by British colonial in 1946, Abyan Public School is considered to be one of the oldest formal education schools in East Africa.

Since its inception, the school has produced thousands of primary school graduates who would have not otherwise had an opportunity to get education. Some of its graduates are well-known in the region including high level government officials, doctors, engineers, civil society and community leaders.

To explore more, we have met with Mr. Adam Ibrahim who has been the principal at Abyan Public School for 10 years and working in the educational sector since 1980’s. He has shown strong commitment and determination during that long period of time with many of his former students becoming prominent and successful in East Africa.

“The school is 100% free of charges, and we provide quality education to the economically disadvantaged children in the region. It was established in 1946, since that time, Abyan had more than 100 school principles and 75th batch of primary school students are graduating this year” - Mr Ibrahim, Abyan Public school principal.

Abyan Public School currently has more than 300 primary students enrolled, 140 of which are girls. 139 of the students are between grades 1 to 4. 32 of the students, who are under the age of 7, are taught Quran in the schools preschool program.

In 2004, the school management had introduced ‘intermediate level’ after seeing the demand from pupils who were ready to begin the secondary level. Abyan Public School currently has more than 215 intermediate school students that are completed their primary school education.

In the last few decades, Abyan Public School has been facing challenges barring the school from providing quality education and making knowledge accessible by every child in the region. Lack of regular teachers’ salaries, insufficient learning materials and poor educational facilities hammered the progress that could have been made.

“Due to the limited capacity we have, we cannot accommodate more than that. Diaspora support, community and local authorities’ contribution are covering the running cost of the school” Ibrahim added “thought the school is struggling to pay enough its teachers”.

Unfortunately, the teachers in the Sool region especially at Abyan Public School work under very difficult conditions. The school has only 12 instructors who teach all classes, both primary and intermediate levels, which makes teaching very difficult. According to the principal, “The best way we can be supported is to sponsor teachers’ salaries.”

Despite these challenges, Abyan Public School has continued to defy the odds and is receiving an outside-round-wall funded implemented by Give to Learn to Grow Foundation. Due to weakened infrastructure and lack of maintenance, school classrooms lacked were below the standard to provide children in the school with a safe educational experience. Fortunately, the construction is progressing and the schools principal share that the community is “grateful for the support from the foundation.”

Heroes such as Principal Adam Ibrahim and his colleagues who run Abyan Public School, the oldest and the only public school in Sool region, deserve immense recognition and support as they are burning themselves to give light to the future leaders of East Africa.

Kombe Mohamed