Recently, first-year students in our World Humanities classes had the opportunity to speak with three students and their teacher via Skype at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology in Somaliland, which was featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday, May 1, 2017. The school was founded by American millionaire, Jonathan Starr who, dissatisfied with his career, built the co-ed boarding school to educate young people in Somaliland. Ultimately, Starr’s goal is to have the Abaarso students enroll into some of the top universities in the U.S. and beyond, then bring their education back to Somaliland as future leaders.
The idea to connect with Abaarso was born when APH students were given the assignment to create a digital magazine for an African country. After seeing the inspiring story of the Abaarso students, APH reached out to Starr, who put us in contact with Elizabeth Nora Harless, a teacher at the school, who made the 7,100-mile Skype call a reality. Also hailing from an all-girls preparatory school in the U.S., Harless promotes the message of education, enlightenment and empowerment to all her students.
The Abaarso girls, ranging from freshmen to seniors, answered many of our questions, such as cultural distinctions between Somaliland and the U.S., daily challenges of English immersion, and continued struggles with national identity. “We [those who live in Somaliland] do see ourselves as a country”said Omema Mohamed. Originally from Yemen, Omema is heading to Spence School in New York City next year; the others present for the call, Muhiim Abdinasir Ali (9th grade) and Muhiim Mustafe Mohammad (10th grade), hope to attend school on the East Coast, as well. When asked if they plan to return to Somaliland after receiving an education in the U.S., “Of course!” was the unanimous answer, along with dreams of becoming dentists, doctors, lawyers, and Supreme Court justices.
The experience was an eye-opening one for the APH girls who were present for the Skype, observing the fact that the two schools are, at heart, not so different. “I’m just starting the college process right now, and the fact that both I and the Abaarso girls share a dream to attend some of the best colleges and universities in the world is extraordinary,” said one student. At its core, education is merely the tool students will use, both at APH and abroad, to make our world a better place for all.
You can watch the 60 Minutes episode about the Abaarso school here.