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Somali Students In MinnesotaBy: David Kubacki, Katie Bodin, & Amy Feit MAT Students Hamline University GED 7862 Spring 2005


Somali Students in MinnesotaTable of ContentsIntroduction..3 History..3 Culture..5 Religion5 Language..6 Dress/Clothing.7 Marriage...7 Art8 Food.8 Famous Somali People/Activists.9 Somalis in Minnesota and the Classroom.....10 Tips for Teachers...10 Situational Analysis...11 Conclusion.....13 Resources..13 References.17


IntroductionOnly thirty percent of Somali students will graduate from high school in the United States (Amakulo, 2005). Statistics such as this define the need for the education of teachers in the Somali culture. Somalia has endured a history of war, civil unrest, turmoil, and devastation. The students have experienced a life of movement between countries, refugee camps, and relocation to communities and schools in the United States. This paper seeks to investigate Somali history, culture, and experiences as a means to educate teachers in alleviating the achievement gap in relation to Somali students. The achievement gap is low graduation rates as a result of cultural misunderstandings and stresses of life experiences of war and refugee camps. Caveat As graduate students in Hamline Universitys Masters of Arts in Teaching Program, we have compiled this investigation on Somali culture through interviews, community visits, and literature reviews. Please be advised that we are not experts.

History of SomaliaThe Horn of Africa, the body of land in East Africa that juts out into the Indian Ocean, has been inhabited by Somalis for centuries. Just across the Gulf of Aden, which borders Somalia to the north, lays the Arabian Peninsula. Before colonialism, Somalis enjoyed trade and cultural ties with the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt (Farid & McMahan, 2004, p. 11). These regions greatly influenced Somali language, customs, clothing, architecture, and the adoption of Islam among the Somali people. Territorial Split In the late 1800s Great Britain, Italy, and France began to compete for territory in the region of Somalia. In the north of present-day Somalia, British Somaliland was established, and Italian Somaliland established in the south. Up until this time, the Somali were primarily a nomadic people. French Somaliland Map of Somalia was established around present-day Djibouti, which borders (Image from Lonely Planet) Somalia to the north (CultureGrams Somalia, 2002). However, the Somali opposed colonialism and launched a rebellion against Britain that lasted from 1900-1920. The rebellion failed, but it intensified Somali nationalism (CultureGrams Somalia, 2002).

4 Somali Republic Tension In 1960, British and Italian Somalilands gained their independence and united to form the Somali Republic. However, Britain had divided some of Somalias territory and given it to Ethiopia and Kenya in the process. The goal of the Somali Republic was to unite all of Somali territory under one flag (Farid & McMahan, 2004, p.12). As a result, tensions formed between Somalia and the neighboring states of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti. This was occurring during the time of the Cold War, and according to Farid & McMahan (2004), the Soviets supported the Somali while the United States supported Ethiopia and Kenya. The United States and the Soviet Union supplied arms to their respective allies, and this forced Somalia to focus its resources on building a strong army and paramilitary government, while neglecting education and infrastructure (Farid & McMahan, 2004). In 1969, General Mohammed Siyad Barre took power and declared Somalia a socialist state (CultureGrams Somalia, 2002). According to Farid & McMahan (2004), Barre ousted traditional, wise leaders and manipulated rival clans against each other. In 1977, a war between Somalia and Ethiopia began over disputed territory. This time, Barre decided to side with the United States, and, in response, the Soviets provided arms to Ethiopia. Farid & McMahan (2004) explain that people did not know how to live with a centralized economy where the government was the only providerAs people began to feel the poverty , those with education and means began to leave Somalia (p. 15). Civil War By the mid-1980s, Somalia became overrun with clanbased opposition movements and militias. The country slipped into anarchy (Farid & McMahan, 2004). All-out civil war broke out in 1991, and Somalia has been without a central government since (U.S. Department of State, 2005). In 1993, Kenya opened its border to Somali refugees fleeing a country ravaged by war and starvation. According to data from the U.S. Department of State (2004), the present political situation in much of Somalia is marked by inter-clan fighting and random banditry, with some areas of peace and stability. Refugee Life Since the war started, thousands of Somalis have left their homes and taken up residency in refugee camps throughout Africa and the Middle East. Being a refugee is different from being an immigrant in that refugees flee their country because of persecution. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (2003) reports that over 400,000 Somalis were living in refugee camps and in 2003, alone, over 21,000 had applied for asylum in foreign countries. There are over 20,000 refugees estimated to be living in Minneapolis alone, and the number is rapidly growing (Amakulo, 2005). Life in a refugee camp would be somewhat safer than living amidst the civil war, but it would nevertheless be harsh. According to Human Rights Watch (1995), refugees walked for miles through upper Somalia over the Kenyan border to refugee camps. About 80% were women and children. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of these women and girls, aged four to fifty were victimized by sexual assault and violence. Refugees also faced malnutrition, desert heat, and lack of medical supplies. A Somali man quoted in Refugee Reports (Dennefer, 2004) remembers,

5 We just ate maize and beans, there was no medicine, people were dying from malnutrition. In some camps, due to fighting, death and serious injury occur every day (Human Rights Watch, 2003).

Asylum in Minnesota As the war continues, Minnesotas Somali population has also continued to grow. In hope of a better life, many refugees have up and left Somalia, only applying for asylum once they have reached the country. Minnesota is believed to have the highest Somali population in the United States.

CultureReligion1 Somalis are part of the large population of Sunni Muslims in the world. They believe that their spiritual beliefs follow them in every facet of life. The role of man in this planet is to be the vice-gerent of Allah (Farid and McMahan, 2004. p. 5). Muslims enact Six Articles of Faith and Five Pillars of Islam at all times in their lives. They live their lives by how the Quran dictates. The Five Pillars of Islam Mosque Mogadishu, Somalia o Muslims profess that they are monotheistic and there is no God but Allah. o Muslims perform five daily prayers. o Charity is given before Allah. o The Holy Month of Ramadan dictates fasting. o All Muslims pursue the Pilgrimage to Makkah once. An interesting fact about the Islamic faith, which has wrongly been displayed falsely in the United States, is that the Islamic word Jihad actually means peace, not holy war. Holidays Given that the Islamic faith dictates much of the life that the Somali people live, they also celebrate holidays that are Islamic as well. The Islamic holidays occur on the twelve-month, lunar calendar. Of the twelve months, Ramadan and Dhul Haj are most important.


All information regarding Islam is taken from Somali Students (2004) by Mohamed Farid and Don McMahan.

6 Ramadan is the ninth month, and at the end, the Muslims celebrate Mohameds first revelation of the Quran. All Muslims stay awake for 24 hours, give charity, and read the Quran. At this time, Muslims also refrain from eating, drinking, sex, and using body parts in ways that would make Allah unhappy. Ramadan ends with a festival, Id-al-Fitir, for three days. Muslim children do not attend school at this time of festivity. Many gifts and charity are given during this time of celebration. They celebrate that Allah allows them to eat and drink as usual during the rest of the year (Farid and McMahan, 2004, p.7). The twelfth month, Dhul Haj, is the largest in celebrations. On the tenth day, Haji, Muslims celebrate courage and faith. According to the Quran, Allah asked his prophet Abraham to sacrifice his only son Ismail (Farid and McMahan, 2004, p.7). The knife did not kill Ismail, and now Muslims celebrate Allah sparing Ismails life. Instead, a sheep was sacrificed that was brought to Abraham by angels. During the time of Haj is when Muslims are supposed to make the pilgrimage to Makkah. Non-Islamic holidays that Muslims celebrate are the independence of Britain and Italy on June 26th and July 1st. They celebrate the unification of colonies to form the Somali Republic.

Gender Roles Women Responsible for taking care of children Responsible for the household Men Provide for families Disciplinary role with children

Somali Family(Photo from University of Queensland)

Language The Somali culture is primarily orally-sustained in traditions through poetry, stories, and proverbs. Other than the Quran, there was not any form of written text that was important to the Somali people until 1972. Many Somali people are skilled in the recitation of stories by memory. Older Somali people, who grew up never reading a single word, could listen to a story once and repeat it with exacting detail (Farid and McMahan, 2004, p.4). Nevertheless, the people were in need of an alphabet. There had been debate about how to implement a writing system for the Somali language. In 1972, the government decided on the Roman alphabet.

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