In times, you may realize how privileged you are if you are living in the West or somewhere else where basic education remains a human right and is covered by the government and you are also able to pursue your aspirations through further education if you wish so.
On my way from Somalia to Denmark and then later immigrating to the UK, I prayed and made a commitment to God that if I succeed in life to get a PhD in medicine I will definitely go back and help my people in Somalia. I made that prayers and commitment 22 years ago and indeed exactly 20 years (2014) my wishes and dreams of attaining a PhD came into a reality. So, it was time for me to pay my dues (fulfilling those prayers and commitments which I made back in 1993/1994).
In 2015, I packed my bags and went to Somalia where I was hosting a “Sharing Knowledge Tour”. I was giving lectures and seminars regarding my Ph.D. research on tuberculosis and immunology, as well as the finding of my second master degrees in Somali Healthcare Infrastructure.
Although the education standards in Somalia are nowhere near the quality of the West, nonetheless I was proud of their effort. Majority of the lecturers were either educated in Somalia before the civil war, after the civil war or in the neighbouring countries during the war. This means that they are limited in terms of attending international conferences, where they can network and follow up on advances in a particular field of interest. They are also limited in resources as well as attaining further training including continuing professional development (CPD) courses.
I have started my tour in University of Hargeisa where I met the Dean of Faculty of Medicine as well as some of the key lectures and medical students who were eager to learn and had high aspirations. I continued my tour all the way to Mogadishu where I delivered lectures and seminars in Jazeera University and Jamhuri University. Many of the students there were motivated and driven. Doing this tour, made me to realize how passionately some people were to attain education and during much of the civil war, many universities resumed their regular schedules. One of the lecturers that I met in Jamhuri University shared with me a particular story about a terrorist attack aimed at the Government. This incident occurred during an exam period, where an explosion was set off which destroyed some part of the building and many students attempted to run to safety. When it was made apparent that there was no imminent danger and no one was harmed, students began to exchange information regarding the exam and some had even taken their exam papers home with them. Of course those students who took their exam papers home, were made to re-sit the exam. Luckily no one was harmed in the attack and the whole incident was remembered rather humorously - in a way students were eager to pass their exams regardless of the environment which they were in.
Another lecturer told me that a couple of years ago when he was a student. He used to walk more than 15 km to go to the temporary location of his University outside of the city.
From time to time students are also targeted by the terrorist group, one of the incidents that broke my heart occurred three days before my scheduled lectures and seminars at Jazeera University. One of the medical students, who was in her fifth year was shot dead by a terrorist group. Of course we had to reschedule my lecture and seminar. But what made me brave was, despite this painful reality in Mogadishu, people are still positive and they still believe that they have a bright future. I was amazed to see them inspired by my own personal stories which include a struggle, hardship and my triumphant success in education. To them it was unheard of for a Somali female who is a Mum with more than five university degrees including a PhD, who dared to come back to contribute and assure them that she will stand by them. Their life-stories and struggles are something I can relate to and it touches my heart that there are still many people who haven’t given up. Many of the students invited me out to eat and were excited to ask me questions and advice.
As long as I can remember, gaining education has always been goal number one to me and has always been an invaluable commodity. So, my Lecture and Seminar Tour – “Sharing Knowledge” was one of the ways to contribute for a better world in Somalia and also to share the knowledge I gained through years.