A growing youth population, high levels of unemployment and limited opportunities for vocational training have led to a steady increase in the number of young Somali men and women seeking higher education courses that will provide them with skills for employment. This demand has led to a proliferation of over fifty colleges and universities in the Somali regions that offer an array of courses. Many young people pursue higher education as a way to gain skills that will provide them with employment and an alternative to migration (tahriib). Unfortunately, the quality of education that is available within these institutions is often poor due to a lack of funding, resources and the availability of experienced teaching staff, and therefore does little to discourage the search for better educational opportunities abroad. Furthermore, driven by a financial need, the focus of these higher education establishments has been on teaching large numbers of students, rather than developing capacities for research or policy development. There are few structured courses in research so most students complete their education at Somali universities and colleges without any research skills.
There is a need for good quality research, data collection and analysis, that can inform development policy across the Somali regions. However, the lack of structured training in research perpetuates an environment where research is mostly externally conceived and funded, conducted by non-Somali researchers and institutions, and that meets the policy needs of external actors rather than issues that may be more relevant to Somali communities and institutions. Somali universities and colleges that should be hubs of information and knowledge generation may be engaged in data collection activities, but are usually omitted from the design, analysis and writing of the research. Another challenge that is frequently observed by Somalis is that data and findings are rarely shared with those that provided it, and those engaged in the policy development and decision-making.
Since 2015 Rift Valley Institute (RVI) has been working with the University of Hargeysa’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) and Puntland State University’s Centre for Postgraduate Studies, Research and Capacity Development (CPSRCD), to address these challenges. With financial support from the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF), the partners are working to support the delivery of high-quality research in the Somali regions that will generate useful knowledge of the Somali regions and its communities and that will inform Somali and international development policy. The work involves supporting the two universities in Hargeysa and Garowe to provide training in research methodologies to core teaching staff and students, facilitating access to research resources, such as online journals, supporting Somali researchers from the diaspora to work with the universities, and by providing grants to undertake research that will be disseminated through public forums and research papers.