Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2003 09:43 UK

Puntland university seeks peace dividend

By Robert Walker
BBC, Bossaso, Puntland

A new university in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland is giving students the chance to study for degrees for the first time.

View of the East African University
The East African University has high ambitions

And the university hopes the recent ceasefire in Puntland between government and rebels will allow it to expand further.

The ambitiously named East Africa University opened its doors to students two years ago, but construction of the new campus - on the seafront close to the port of Bossaso - is still continuing.

Abdi Weli Abdirahman is Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration. Like many of the teaching staff, he has returned from abroad.

"I am an economist from the United States. I came back to teach my people in Puntland. I am a Puntlander", he says.

Too dangerous

But the past two years of fighting in Puntland has made it difficult for the new university to establish itself.

Students know they can go to university and get a job and they can compete with the rest of the world
Abdirizak Mohamed, Unicef

Business student Abdirizak Abdullahi says many in his class stayed at home during the conflict.

"Classes stopped. We could not come to university which is 5km from town because of the fighting. Everyone went home to save themselves," he recalls.

The fledgling university is desperately short of funds.

Dean Abdi Weli Abdirahman hopes the recent ceasefire in Puntland will bring a much needed peace dividend.

"The new university is very costly to run. We do not get the funding we expect from the state, because most state revenue goes to security.

"Soon, the peace is coming, we expect more money," he says.

Future hopes

There are few further education opportunities for school leavers in Puntland.

Abdullahi Ahmed studying sharia law
The university offers everything from Sharia law in business studies

Abdirizak Mohamed of the Bossaso office of the United Nations children's agency (Unicef) thinks it is important for the whole education sector that the new university succeeds.

"If we have a university, we expect the enrolment in primary schools to increase.

"Students know they can go to university and get a job and they can compete with the rest of the world. It's good for the future," he says.

Back at the university staff and students say there is one key thing the university needs if it is to grow - and that is for Puntland's new peace to continue.

Fighting erupts in Puntland
02 Aug 02 |  Africa

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