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Twelve years ago Abaarso was a vision written off as foolhardy and impossible. Today we have over 150 alumni who’ve matriculated on scholarships globally, including to such famous institutions as Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Cambridge. The school that was once expected to be rejected by the Somali people now has over 35 applicants for every available position, demand we are now fulfilling through the country’s first boarding university for women and a new chain of K-12 Montessori-inspired schools. This is not to say that the skeptics weren’t right that we’d face monumental challenges, the likes of which we’d be woefully unprepared. Their mistake was not realizing that our Abaarso community would always have the adaptability and tenacity to fend off attacks while still finding a way to advance the ball.
These are indeed tragic and challenging times globally that no one was fully prepared to handle. Major outbreaks in New York, Italy, and elsewhere have been well documented, and thankfully Somaliland as of now has not seen a significant level of COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, in a matter of weeks our world dramatically changed with Somaliland schools being ordered closed, our foreign faculty facing the possibility of being stranded, and many of our alumni around the world being evacuated from their schools. Like most out there, our community was not prepared for this specific problem, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an organization faster to scrap Plan A when its premises are no longer valid.
Just a few weeks later, our campuses are locked down, our alumni are safe, most of our faculty has chosen to stay, and our students are still learning. In our typical fashion, our various institutions are coordinating for best practices yet employing tailored responses that fit their unique situations:
- talented faculty are communicating with students via phone, email, and a newly created YouTube channel--this content is stronger by the week and will have use for years to come.
- which had already employed a personalized online learning platform as a part of its daily curriculum, has added additional virtual resources and calls with faculty to enact its full schedule.
- faculty are taking full advantage of the low 7:1 student-faculty ratio and providing one-on-one video lessons to their students five days per week.
Abaarso Network’s success continues to be driven by broad support from faculty, administrators, students, families, and the broader Somali society. It also comes from donors around the world who have stayed with us even when it looked like the challenges might be too great. We anticipate that COVID-19 related losses will come to approximately $35,000, though the loss could be worse if our tuition collection assumptions fail to materialize. so we can come out of this tough time stronger than ever.
We have fended off the attack but we’re not stopping there. This period is allowing us to accelerate our move to a progressive educational model highlighted by increased independent work and skills-based evaluations. The Abaarso Network can never afford to let obstacles be an excuse to slow our students’ education; if we did they would never have come this far. COVID-19 will not be any different. Come this fall, the Abaarso Network will have once again advanced the ball.
Abaarso Network Founder and CEO