Following back-to-back student riots at two of the largest privately-owned schools in Hargeisa, Nuradin Boys’ School and Salama private schools, the Minister of Education and Science Hon. Ahmed Mohamed Diriye Egeh has rebuked and issued a stern warning to the privately-owned schools to immediately implement COVID-19 directives and to stop forcing students to purchase books and school lunches from them among other issues.
The student riot at Salaama private school was disbursed by police and government response to the incident was swift where many officials have been onsite and updated the public and the media. This follows another riot a week prior at Nuradin school that has caused major property damage to the school. No death or injuries were reported on either incident.
Although the reason for the riot at Salama school was not immediately known, the prior incident on March 3rd at Nuradin school follows the dismissal of a student who posted a complaint on social media about the school’s business practices including an allegation that the school is openly violating COVID-19 prevention directives and that students are prohibited from purchasing anything including lunch from outside the school.
The Minister of Education and Science Hon. Ahmed Mohamed Diriye Egeh stated that violation of COVID-19 prevention directives would no longer be tolerated and would result in the immediate revocation of their operating license.
Before the news of yesterday’s riot at Salaama school, a committee tasked with investigating the incident at Nuradin has issued a report recommending that include the prohibition of charging students any fees except the monthly fees and that students can purchase textbooks anywhere they wish and that Nuradin school should immediately stop selling textbooks.
The recommendation of the committee seems to vindicate points raised by the student that posted the complaint against Nuradin on social that reported sparked the riot.
In the press briefing, the Minister of Education and Science Hon. Ahmed Mohamed Diriye Egeh said “Any school caught with more than 45 students sitting in a class and not adhering to the ministry’s directive for social distances their licenses will be revoked within the hour. The time for tolerance and grace period is over.”. He added that in addition to the revocation of the operating license the government will prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.
Speaking on the additional fees the students have alleged the private schools assess, the minister states that it is against the law to charge students any fees except the monthly fee as part of the directives of the COVID-19 prevention.
The minister also spoke on the other allegation that students are forced to purchase textbooks, lunches, and anything they may need from the school itself and are unable to do so on the open market and asked rhetorically if the school owners consider the pupils to be their property and said students are free to purchase books and lunches from anywhere they want.
The minister who seemed livid mentioned that the owners of private schools may be colluding on WhatsApp groups and added that the government will recognize them as a criminal element waging a war against the government and that the government knows how to deal with that.
Continuing his speech, the minister called upon privately-owned schools to work with the ministry and stated that they should not think they not equal to the government and that no one is above the law.
To the students, the minister said that they can register their grievances with the ministry and warned them of slandering their schools on social media, and stated that libel is a criminal offense in Somaliland.
“If someone is charging you a fee they shouldn’t or is forcing you to purchase textbooks from the school or school lunch can be only purchased from the school-owned cafeteria, or you think you have been suspended unfairly, you can file a complaint to our call center at 9666, this line can be called from all telecom companies that operate in Somaliland. But any student that says I will not file a complaint but would rather take the law into their hands. They will be caught with an iron fist and steps will be taken against them” said Minister Diriye.
“This is the second riot in 10 days, and steps will be taken against anyone who participated even if they broke a small window as they have destroyed a property that belongs to Somaliland” he said.
Minister Diriye stated that it is thought or even suspected that the rioters may be trying to destabilize Somaliland’s security at the direction of external actors and that will be investigated. His speech did not reconcile the unfair treatment of the students that he referred to in his previous part of the speech where he addressed and threatened legal action against the owners of the privately-owned schools.