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PMHS graduate Jesse Clain speaks about time teaching in Somaliland

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PMHS graduate Jesse Clain recounted his experiences over the last year in Somaliland teaching students from across Somalia and the Somali diaspora at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology during a Rotary Club of Pelham luncheon at Rockwell’s. 

Clain, who majored in psychology at Northwestern University, described the time he spent teaching Somali children as being both a rewarding and insightful experience.

Somaliland is an independent region within Somalia that borders Ethiopia and Djibouti. Although it is not recognized as an independent country, it has its own functioning government and systems of the like. Clain described Somaliland as an “oasis” that, although poor, is nonetheless promising. In 2008, Jonathan Starr, a wealthy hedge fund manager, decided to create the Abaarso school to develop students into scholars eligible for competitive American boarding schools and universities.

After watching a “60 Minutes” segment featuring Abaarso, Clain decided that he wanted to teach at the school despite the fact that he had never taught before. After applying for a job, Clain began working in 2017 as a math teacher. In Somaliland, he stayed in a dorm reserved for teachers, most of whom were young and with little experience.

Abaarso is not a typical school setting. The girls remain completely separate from the boys and do not interact unless related to one another. In addition, six soldiers stand on guard at all times, students go to pray 5 times a day during class time, and classes are held 6 days of the week for 11  months of the year.

Abaarso holds students to a high standard and is willing to kick out those who do not oblige by the school’s strict rules. Students are admitted to Abaarso through a strict admissions test. Each grade at Abaarso consist of about 250 students, with an applicant pool of 15,000. According to Cain, although tuition is high, most students are covered by family connections or receive scholarships from the school. Cain mentioned that because most students do not have birth certificates, they often do not know their age, meaning that some upper school (high school) students could be anywhere between 16 to 23 years old.

Most students enter Abaarso in 7th grade barely speaking English and leave as competent, intelligent scholars. Clain spoke on behalf of one of his students, Mohen, mentioning that she was recently admitted to a boarding school in Massachusetts.

Cain will return to Abaarso as an 11th and 12th grade English teacher in 2018. He noted that teaching at Abaarso had been an adjustment, but one of great reward. In the two weeks before he returns to Somaliland, Clain will create his own curriculum and prepare again to change many traditions in his own life as he ventures into another year of teaching the Somali youth.



About the Writer
Ella Stern, Politics Editor

Ella Stern is a rising senior at Pelham Memorial High School. She is a captain on the varsity track and field team, an avid member of several clubs, and...

1 Comment

One Response to “PMHS graduate Jesse Clain speaks about time teaching in Somaliland”

  1. Donna Shirreffs on August 2nd, 2018 5:47 pm

    Thanks so much for covering this at our Rotary Club meeting. Thanks also for telling me how to get on the email list. I will share this with my fellow Rotarians, who I am sure will sign up. Come back for another meeting!

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PMHS graduate Jesse Clain speaks about time teaching in Somaliland