Aisha Mohamed Warsame: A passionate advocate for vocational training

Aisha Mohamed Warsame’s education was no bed of roses. Much of the 23-year- old’s schooling coincided with Somalia’s descent into armed strife and conflict in the nineties.

In 1995, hoping for a better future for their children, Aisha’s parents moved from their temporary home in Bal’ad, in the Middle Shabelle region, to Mogadishu to seek better educational opportunities for their children.

However, as they would later realize, the move to the capital made going to school even more dangerous for their children as the country plunged into full-blown armed conflict. The sound of gunshots and grenades rent the air almost every day in their neighbourhood, making it difficult for the youngsters to concentrate on homework, in addition to the perils of moving about the city.

Even worse, while at school Aisha and her classmates had to frequently flee and hide whenever fierce fighting between armed groups extended into the school compound.

“We had to dodge bullets on the way to and while at school. Shooting would start outside the compound forcing students and teachers to take cover and wait for the fighting to stop before resuming lessons. It was a tough life for us,” Aisha recalls.

But that was not the only challenge she faced. Others were due to more traditional cultural biases, such as that against girls in education.

Aisha Mohamed Warsame in her office.

“I was often the subject of ridicule from men whenever I walked to school clutching my books. I received gaping stares. I heard them gossiping ‘Why is she going to school?’” she says.

Nonetheless, Aisha believed a university education was what she needed to have a better life, and the gunfights and the ridicule did not stop Aisha from pursuing her goal.

After graduating from university with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2016, she had high hopes of landing a well-paying job, ideally in a high-profile organization which would allow Aisha to contribute to her country’s development.

But to her surprise, all attempts to get a job proved unsuccessful, leaving her frustrated and disappointed. She worried that all the time and money invested in her education might have been a waste.

She had almost lost all hope when she met one of her former teachers, who advised her to consider vocational training to increase her competitiveness in the job market.

“The reason why I had difficulties getting a job is that in universities, you are only taught theoretical lessons, yet the job market requires skill sets,” Aisha says. “There is a difference between what universities teach and what the real job world requires in terms of skill sets.”

This mismatch, the 23-year-old adds, is hurting many young Somalis who believe a university degree is all they need to gain employment, unaware that hands-ontraining can make the difference between getting a job and remaining unemployed.

With this in mind, Aisha enrolled at the Hano Academy, an accredited polytechnic institution in Somalia offering vocational training, to acquire technical skills that meet the demands of the job market. Her decision paid off – after excelling in her training, she was offered a position as an office administrator by the same institution.

“The Hano Academy was a godsend. My passion was to become an administration officer in the education sector,” she says. “I received on-the-job training, which changed my life for the better.”

Somalia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world on account of its many years of conflict. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 47 per cent of the active population is unemployed, with 75 per cent of young females being illiterate. Vocational training is widely needed in order to ease the unemployment pressures.

Due to their contribution towards the development of technical skills and competencies, vocational training institutions are a source of comparative advantage to promote growth in productivity, according to the ILO. That factor is normally reflected in more and better jobs. ILO’s stance ties into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), centred on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong
learning opportunities for all.

Building on the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the 2030 Agenda comprises 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

Such is Aisha’s belief in the impact that vocational training can have on individuals and society that she now organizes regular meetings with youth, delivering motivational talks and encouraging them to consider the merits of vocational education.

“With vocational training. you can easily get employment or start your own business and help contribute to peace and development,” she says. “The ripple effect for the economy is enormous.”