Empowering Somalis through Mobile Learning

In Somaliland, a region plagued by illiteracy and limited educational opportunities, a groundbreaking mobile app called Daariz is revolutionizing access to education. With over 410,000 users across the Horn of Africa, the app has become a powerful tool in teaching Somali people how to read and write. This development is particularly significant for individuals like Hodan Artan, a 23-year-old single mother who could never afford formal schooling as a child. Daariz has allowed Artan to study in her spare time, and within just a few months, she has made remarkable progress, gaining the ability to read and comprehend short stories in Somali.

Somaliland, which declared independence in 1991 after a civil war, has struggled with low literacy rates due to the ongoing effects of the conflict, lack of infrastructure, and recurring drought. According to UNICEF, approximately three out of four adults in Somaliland cannot read or write, and one in four children is not attending school. While the government and UNICEF have invested in education initiatives, progress has been slow, particularly concerning the nomadic population and those living in rural areas.

The Sahamiye Foundation, led by Ismail Ahmed, has developed Daariz as a solution to these challenges. Ahmed, who left Somaliland as a refugee and later founded the successful money transfer app WorldRemit, recognized the potential of using mobile phones to address the learning crisis in his home country. Daariz stands out because it is free, offline-enabled, and accessible to people in remote areas or those who are frequently on the move.

The impact of Daariz goes beyond basic literacy skills. Mubaarik Mahdi, a herder outside of Hargeisa, struggled to read his customers’ names on payment slips due to lack of education. Now, using the app, Mahdi has gained confidence in his mobile transactions and has even started purchasing books. The app’s success is not limited to individuals; it has been embraced by communities as a means of empowering themselves and creating a better future.

The use of mobile technology for education represents a significant shift in traditional learning models. Ahmed believes that Daariz’s success demonstrates that individuals can become functionally literate in their mother tongue without attending classes. This innovative approach has tremendous potential in countries like Somalia and South Sudan, where large populations face similar educational challenges.

While Daariz has made significant strides in improving literacy rates, challenges remain in reaching marginalized populations. Somaliland’s nomadic pastoralists often live in isolated areas, making it difficult to sustain education efforts. Additionally, issues such as connectivity and device access must be addressed to ensure widespread use of mobile learning platforms.

Despite these challenges, Daariz has opened doors to education and empowerment for countless Somalis. The app has not only taught people to read and write but has also instilled confidence and aspirations for a brighter future. Individuals like Hodan Artan, who once thought opportunities were out of reach, now envision securing fulfilling positions and utilizing their newfound skills and knowledge to succeed.

The success of Daariz serves as a testament to the power of technology and innovation in addressing pressing social issues. With continued investment and expansion, similar mobile learning initiatives could transform education and literacy rates not only in Somaliland but also in other regions facing similar challenges. By harnessing the potential of mobile technology, societies can bridge the educational gap and empower individuals to reach their full potential.