The role of Turkey in the rebuilding and development of the education system in Somalia.


The historical relations between Somalia and Turkey dates back to the Middle Ages when the Ottomans arrived at the Horn of Africa to support Somalis’ fight with Ethiopia and 

Portuguese expeditionary forces Ethiopian and Portuguese allied to expand their influence in the region, including the Somali territories. Somalia, which was then ruled by small empires, was at a critical time when the Ottomans came to support the local sultans who was mainly controlling Somalia’s coastal towns in fighting against the Ethiopia- Portugal aggressors. The Ottomans empire supported the indigenous Somali people with military training and equipment to counterbalance the foreign and regional powers in the continent.   

The modern Turkish humanitarian assistance in Somalia federal government reached its highest level in August 2011, after President Erdogan, (then prime minister) and his wife visited Mogadishu, which constituted a turning point in the history of Somalia following the civil war in 1991, in which no other head of state had visited Somalia in 18 years, following the visit of, president George H.W Bush visit in December 1992 and in January 1993, the response from Somalia was rapturous, and gain high popularity in country, that even some of the parents gave their newborn boys the name Erdogan. The visit followed a nationwide campaign that collected donations close to 500 million Turkish Liras (around 300 million USD). 

In the following period, the Turkish public, private and civil society sectors began to engage widely with Somalia. So Turkey makes an effort to promote a positive perspective by giving aid and support to the Somali state, that was destroyed by the civil war and was facing different humanitarian crises. Turkey has been widely lobbying in the international community to support Somalia, so it can stand on its own feet after years of conflict and isolation.

Emergency humanitarian aid was the first step in Turkey’s assistance in Somalia. The much needed humanitarian aid and assistance was provided by the Turkish government, to the drought and famine affected communities in south-central regions of Somalia, Turkey role in assisting in the crises raised awareness through the international media and it was one of the biggest reason in which president Erdogan visited in the capital city in Somalia.  


After more than twenty years’ weak educational infrastructure, due to the collapse of the central government, and various conflicts in the country enabled the education sector to be led by the private sector in Somalia, with minor government involvement and support. Although these private institutions attempted to fill up the gap in education to contribute educational development throughout the country, it became very challenging for many low-income families, to pay for their children’s education. 

Turkish NGOs and state institutions worked closely with the Somali ministry education to improve the country’s educational systems. In an effort to rebuild and strengthen the educational system in the country, the ministry of education signed an agreement with the Nile Foundation of Turkey, (Somalia Report, 2011). The foundation’s aim was to rebuild the educational infrastructure in primary and secondary schools throughout the country, and also provided training to the Somali teachers (Somalia Report, 2011).

 In 2015 with Erdogan’s visit to Mogadishu, Turkey also signed cooperation agreements in the fields of youth and sports with Somalia.

Intensifying Local Educational Institutions

Turkish government organizations and NGOs realized That there was a need to intensify the capacity of local educational institutions. Many new schools were constructed, while many others were renovated, and the necessary technological equipment has been provided to higher educational institutions. The first Turkish high school was opened in Somalia by Nile foundation in 2012, which currently has at least 200 students, in the same year, Kimse yok mu constructed a high school merely for girls with dormitory in Mogadishu (Anadolu Ajansi, 2012), and in the followings year, Sheikh Sufi Imam Hatip secondary school, which 90% of its students were orphans while the other 10% are students from poor families was open in 2013,also a  modern school named Anatolia Education Centre in Mogadishu, which intended for the orphans and the children of the poor families was constructed and opened, the 10,000 square-meters field has an administrative building, a dormitory, a sports hall, a health clinic and the school building, with the capacity of 1,500 students to study in the school ,is one of the biggest educational schools of the country, 400 of the students live in the school dormitories, while the rest just ,come for studying (IHH, 2013).


In addition to assisting in the rebuilding and development of the local educational system in Somalia, Turkey is one of the leading countries that provides Somali students with scholarship opportunities, that enables students to study in Turkey. This  highlights Turkey’s efforts in helping to rebuild Somalia as a country with a future ,During president  Erdogan’s visit to Somalia on August 19, 2011, a promise was made to provide scholarships to more than 1,200 Somali students, and in efforts to accomplish this, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) provided scholarships to 421 university level students with Somali nationality since 2012, other state agencies such as Diyanet [TDV]   provides scholarship around 650 students resident in Turkey and around 400 in Somalia, both at university and high-school levels. Many Turkish state institutions and NGOs have provided a huge number of scholarships to the Somalis students to study both in Somalia and Turkey, In the first two years of Turkey’s involvement in Somalia, nearly $70 million has been allocated for 1,200 Somali students, (Harte, 2012) to study in Turkey with full scholarship, and the numbers have been increasing for the last years.

Since 2010, the Turkish government agency, The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, has provided and coordinated Turkish scholarships and a special scholarship scheme designed for Somali students. Assistances and development of the Turkish government has been increasing every year since 2012. 

The young Somali students who were once hopeless about their education, have received educational opportunities that could potentially shape up their future. 


In conclusion, Turkeys humanitarian and technical development assistance to Somalia exceeded 400 million USD, with a particular focus in the rebuilding and development of the educational system in Somalia and currently there are a lot of educational projects ongoing such as the scholarship programs for Somali students to study in Turkey and technical support to local educational institutes in Somalia.

I would like to end this article by acknowledging my sincere gratitude to the Turkish government and its people for their hospitality and incredible kindness, I would also like to express my thankfulness to my professor Egemen Bagis, the former Turkey EU affairs Minister, thank you for your kind support and assistance to an international student like me. 

   by Safia Mohamoud osman

Master in International Relation and Political Science student, Istanbul Aydin University–