PAX student from the Abaarso School teaches young children English as a volunteer at an orphanage in Somaliland
Class is in session. PAX Means Peace Scholar Sagal I. (2018/19) kicks off English class at the orphanage.

PAX PLUS-Somali Style

As if the Abaarso School’s story of camel herders turned MIT scholars weren’t inspiring enough, the school strives not only to create great students but also great people. Students are instilled with the Abaarso values of “integrity,” “tenacity,” and “critical thinking.” And in spite of their own potentially challenging circumstances, all students are also required to give back through community service. In keeping with their mission, the form this takes at Abaarso is education.

Whether the Abaarso students travel off campus to help educate children in a nearby orphanage or village kiddos stop by for tutoring, all Abaarso students tutor younger, non-Abaarso children in some way, shape, or form. With roughly half of all school-age children not in the classroom in Somaliland, the assistance is certainly much needed.

And for the young people they reach, it can be positively life changing. Some, including children raised in the orphanage, have gone on to become Abaarso students themselves and are even poised to head to America to further their education. Not surprisingly, and as many former PAX Means Peace Scholars can attest, the program also has a lasting impact on the tutors themselves.

While Abaarso students have been offering an educational boost to the community, Abaarso founder Jonathan Starr has been hard at work on another educational boost for the region. In fact, last school year marked the opening of Barwaaqo University, a “proper higher education institution for women” (“from the makers of Abaarso!”). The university’s first phase is their School of Education—a teacher’s college. The plan is to help Abaarso alumni who have been educated abroad return to their country to set-up schools staffed by graduates of Barwaaqo University…

Needless to say, the implications for successfully scaling the Abaarso success story are immense. While it’s unclear whether they will produce another singular story as inspiring as the camel herder turned MIT scholar, they’re sure to produce more hope and recognition for a country that sorely needs it.

—The PAX Press team