March 5, 2010 / 9:35 AM / 10 years ago

Somali Islamist rebels ban English, science lessons

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia’s hardline Islamists have banned English and science studies in schools in the southern Afmadow town after the education centers there ignored the rebels’ call for fighters, residents and teachers say.

Residents of the town near the border with Kenya said three schools had been given one month to comply with the order by al Shabaab rebels and switch the curriculum to accommodate Arabic and Islamic studies.

“They asked us to contribute students to their militia so that they can fight for them, but we rejected their proposal,” said one teacher who wanted to remain anonymous.

Al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in the failed Horn of Africa state, wants to topple Somalia’s U.N.-backed government and impose its own strict version of sharia, Islamic law.

The heavily armed group controls much of the south and parts of the capital Mogadishu, and courts run by its clerics have ordered executions, floggings and amputations.

It has also banned movies, dancing at wedding ceremonies and playing or watching soccer in the areas under its control.

Elders said the al Shabaab militia shut down Waamo, Dhoobaale and Osman Mohamud schools briefly Sunday, before slapping the ban on English, which they called a “spy language.”

“The Islamic administration closed education centers and ordered them to stop teaching English which they said is a western language,” Ali Mowlid Mohamud, clan elder in Afmadow, told Reuters by phone.

“They told schools, ‘We know everyone who is going to be a spy for western governments learns this language.’”

Schools reopened Tuesday after elders and schools accepted al Shabaab’s decree.

The order also forced 23 instructors that did not have an Arabic education background, out of their jobs.

Safiya Ali, a mother at one of the affected schools, said she sent her children to the Koranic schools earlier in their life so they would later pursue some western education to enable them to join higher education institutions elsewhere.

“We had already taught our children Islamic principles and religion. I don’t know how the new curriculum will fit the education needs of our children,” she told Reuters.

Writing by Abdiaziz Hassan; Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Matthew Jones

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