Working Paper
Education from the Bottom Up

UNICEF’s Education Programme in Somalia

The failure of the Somali state from 1993 to 2012 represents one of the world’s most profound and prolonged cases of state collapse. Initially, education and other government services came to a standstill. With the halt of fighting in some areas, local communities with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies began to provide education and other critical services. Since then, slow progress has been made in providing educational services to increasing numbers of children, developing community capacity to manage schools in the absence of government support, and developing regional and national administrative systems to continue development of the education system. UNICEF played a central role in these developments. This case study looks at UNICEF’s education programme in Somalia between 1991 and 2010. Highlighted are the contexts in which the programme operated, the challenges it faced, and the ways it adapted and learned. Of central importance was the agency’s sensitivity to local context, its flexibility in programme responses, its willingness and ability to partner with available groups and agencies, its focus on helping the larger system get running, and its commitment to inclusion.