The collapse of the Somali state in 1991 led to the breakdown of all formal learning systems in the country and destruction of education facilities. To date the country does not have a uniform education system as the education sector is supported by various stakeholders, including regional administrations, international NGOs, Community Education Committees (CECs), community‐based organizations (CBOs), education umbrella groups and networks, NGOs, private sector, and religious groups.
As a result of this state of strife, civil war and lack of consistent good governance within the education sector, the overall adult literacy rate, which according to the 1975 population census was 54 percent, dropped to 40 percent according to PESS 2014 data.
In terms of adult literacy Somalia has the third-lowest literacy rate among ten sub Saharan neighbouring counties. Somalia’s rate of 40 percent is only lower than Ethiopia (39 percent) and South Sudan (27 percent).
This delayed entry into primary school is the main reason why only about half of the pupils enrolled in primary education are 6-13 years old. The phenomenon, called overage enrolment, is very common all throughout the Somali formal school system. Delayed entry at the primary level obviously transmits to late entry at secondary and tertiary levels of education. Of the enrolled students, 35 percent are aged 14-17 years, and another 15 percent are 18 years or older. The percentages of students who have an age that is typical for the level of education in secondary school (14-17 years) and tertiary education (18-24 years) is even lower than for primary education.
Gross enrolment for primary education is very low at 30 percent; for secondary education the gross enrolment rate is 26 percent. Comparisons with neighbouring countries reveal that Somalia’s primary and secondary gross enrolment rates are lower than in any other country in the region.
Because of huge overage enrolment, the net primary school enrolment rate (NER) is considerably lower than the comparable gross enrollment rate at 17 percent. This means that only 17 percent of the 6-13 year old population is enrolled in primary school. The Sustainable Development Goal of reaching Universal Primary Education (NER is close to 100 percent) currently appears as an unrealistic goal.
Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education completed by the out-of-school population defined as the age group of adults 25 years and over. More than three quarters of Somalis who are past schoolgoing age never completed primary education. Less than six percent finished tertiary education, but even this figure might be somewhat inflated because in the PESS data, persons who completed vocational training may have been included in tertiary level.
Adult literacy, school enrolment and educational attainment of the out-of-school population were all studied with respect to variation between males and females (gender gap), for the different types of residence (rural, urban, nomadic, IDPs), for the 18 pre-war regions, and for differences between the poor and rich.
Generally, the male education indicators are better than the indicators for females. There is an 8 percentage point gap in the adult literacy rates in favour of males. But it seems that girls are not systematically disadvantaged, which might also be a consequence of the war and civil strife which put a high burden on men. Boys and girls have for instance almost equal access to primary education (GPI for primary 0.986) and even in secondary education, gender parity is not far dream (GPI for secondary 0.916). It is only in tertiary education that boys are much more than girls (GPI for tertiary 0.688). Males beyond schoolgoing age have more favourable rates of highest level of education completed than females for all levels of education.
Urban residents consistently have the best education indicators and the nomadic population the worst ones. This applies to adult literacy rates, highest level of education completed for the out-of-school population and for school enrolment of the persons currently in school. Distance to schools appears to be the main factor that explains the observed patterns.
There exist huge differences between the regions on all education indicators. Without having applied advanced statistical techniques like multivariate analysis, it is not possible to assess the role of main determinants in explaining regional variations. However, in studying the patterns two factors stand out: regions that have had relative peace appear to perform well on almost all education indicators. Another pattern is that the regions with large urban centres contain also the most reputable centres of higher learning in the country (Banadir-Mogadishu; Woqooyi Galbeed-Hargeisa, Awdal-Boorama and Bari-Bosaaso). They tend to do better, especially on indicators pertaining to tertiary education.