Somalia: Requirements and procedures to obtain certificates from the Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS), including types of certificates available; content, appearance, and security features; verification services available for certificates; prevalence of fraudulent certificates (2020–January 2022) [SOM200888.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

According to a study commissioned by the World Bank in February 2018 [1], the education system of Somalia is "fragmented" due to "British and Italian influences, the absence of a central education authority between 1991 and 2006, and the subsequent emergence of non-state education providers" (World Bank Aug. 2018, 15). Sources note that in the absence of a public education system, private organizations [private umbrella associations (World Bank Aug. 2018, 16)] emerged to provide education services (World Bank Aug. 2018, 15; lawyers 14 Jan. 2022) and "assumed key roles in reconstructing schools, education service delivery and regulation" (World Bank Aug. 2018, 16). The World Bank states that "[t]he current education system emerged in 2012 with the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS)" and "[t]he Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education (MoECHE) manages the education system although non-state actors maintain their influential roles" (World Bank Aug. 2018, 16).

According to the World Bank, there are "over" 1,000 schools belonging to 14 different umbrella associations in Somalia, while the MoECHE operates 93 schools (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22). The same source indicates that an umbrella association is responsible for setting minimum education standards, providing guidance for school administration, bringing schools and donors together and providing a "platform for schools to express their concerns to the government" (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22). The World Bank notes that the role of umbrella associations "remains strong" as providers of education and "guarantors" of quality, despite the MoECHE reclaiming "core responsibilities," including regulating the sector, developing curricula and textbooks and administering national exams (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22).

In joint correspondence with the Research Directorate, lawyers from a law firm in Somalia whose practice areas include regulatory compliance, a law firm in the US whose practice areas include immigration law and an international law firm based in Canada that provides advice on transactions in Africa stated that since no supervisory body oversees these private organizations and no law governs the collection of personal information, the data collection process of these umbrella associations varies "significant[ly]" (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). The lawyers added that

there is significant variability [regarding] the specifics of how certifications can be obtained. Specifically, organizations and associations can vary in several ways, including what type of personal information is included in certifications, any associated costs with obtaining certification, availability of paper or digital copies, processing time and delays, managing errors or omissions, access [to] certification by a third party, issues of denied access, [and] organizations withholding information. (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022)

1.1 FPENS

Sources state that FPENS is the "largest" education umbrella organization in Somalia (FPENS [2020]; World Bank Aug. 2018, 22). FPENS describes itself as a community-based educational umbrella organization that aims to improve education by delivering "formal and informal" systems of teaching (FPENS n.d.a). The lawyers indicated that FPENS is a "recognized network of higher education institutions in Somalia" (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). The World Bank cites a representative of an umbrella organization as noting that FPENS was established to introduce regulation in the education sector and to create an institution that could issue internationally recognized secondary school diplomas (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22). Sources indicate that FPENS was founded in 1993 (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22) or 1999 (FPENS n.d.a).

Sources note that FPENS had 1,080 schools [as of 2018] (World Bank Aug. 2018, 22) or 136 foundations and 372 schools as of 2019 (FPENS [2020]). The lawyers indicated that FPENS supports 14 educational institutions (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). FPENS provides the following statistics for the 2018–2019 school year:

Education Level Number of Students
Lower Primary 43,052
Upper Primary 66,464
Secondary 70,027

 

Education Level Number of Teachers Number of Managers
Secondary 706 117
Diploma Level 489 95
University Level 4,575 1085

(FPENS [2020])

In his PhD thesis on social change in Somalia presented in November 2018 at the Universität Duisburg-Essen in Germany, Michele Gonnelli describes FPENS as "the leading provider in the education sector" (Gonnelli 27 Nov. 2018, 75). In contrast, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), citing their interview with a professor of conflict and development at Durham University in the UK who specializes in Somalia, indicates that since the Ministry resumed control of education, "FPENS has lost influence" (EU Sept. 2021, 11, 42).

2. Types of Certificates Issued by FPENS; Requirements and Procedures to Obtain Them

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Examination and Certificates Office at FPENS stated the following:

FPENS issues three types of certificates:

  1. Grade 8 certificate (Elementary certificate), a student is qualified for this type of credential upon the completion of a course [of] study not less than 8 academic years and passing the final exam;
  2. Secondary certificate, this type of certificate is given to a student who completed a learning course of 12 academic years and is qualified to be admitted into a university's first degree program;
  3. Diploma certificate, FPENS operates a Banadir [Benadir, Banaadir] teacher training institute (BTTI) that provides 2 years of in-services educational diplomas in order to increase the qualified teaching force. In this regard, FPENS issues Diploma certificates to teachers who successfully pass the final exam with FPENS. (FPENS 10 Jan. 2022)

The same source further indicated that

[b]efore 2018, people took exams with FPENS to obtain the certificates. From 2019 on, students need to take exams with FPENS member agencies (agents between FPENS and schools) that directly regulate schools, and the agencies submit the results to FPENS. In this regard, FPENS has a supervision role during examination and setting the final exam timetable. (FPENS 10 Jan. 2022)

The lawyers stated that FPENS provides two types of certificates: middle school certificates and "[h]igher" school certificates (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). The lawyers also indicated that

people have to take exams with FPENS to obtain the certificates. FPENS does provide certificates to students enrolled in FPENS. Students are expected to sit for an exam and pass with a minimum score of 50 percent in order to obtain a certificate. These certificates are not based on academic performance.

For students eligible for a certificate, there is a centralized system across the 14 education boards or organizations that are part of the FPENS network. The federal government issues education certificate for grade 8 and 12 through the FPENS centralized system. (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022)

3. Content, Appearance, and Security Features of FPENS Certificates

The FPENS Examination and Certificates Director stated that "[m]arkers of authenticity on" the FPENS certificates include the FPENS dry stamp and logo, as well as official signatures (FPENS 10 Jan. 2022). Blank copies of the paper used for elementary and secondary certificates (Attachment 1), showing the paper's seal, central image and border, and for BTTI diploma certificates (Attachment 2), showing the paper's border, provided by the FPENS Examination and Certificates Director, are attached to this Response.

The lawyers, in consultation with other sources, including the FPENS website and a MoECHE representative, stated that the FPENS logo is "often visible" on the top of the certificate or "as a border" (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). A copy of an FPENS high school certificate (Secondary School Certificate), provided by the lawyers, is attached to this Response (Attachment 3).

4. Verification Services

The FPENS website has a section called "Fpens Certificate Tracking" (FPENS n.d.b). Regarding this service and other methods to verify the authenticity of certificates, the Examination and Certificates Director stated the following:

The online certificate tracking is [up-to-date] and hosted by a certified organization whose office is outside the country. Certificate issued from July 31, 2018 are available on the tracking system. Certificates issued prior to 2018 can be verified by our examination office by email at exam.cert@fpens.org. (FPENS 10 Jan. 2022)

Information on the exact information generated by a search with a valid certificate number could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The lawyers similarly indicated that "[i]f the authenticity of a certificate is questioned," FPENS can be contacted at exam.cert@fpens.org for verification (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). In consultation with other sources, the lawyers added the following:

Starting in 2018, the FPENS updated all official certificates to be digital and have additional security features, including ultra-violet (UV) marks embedded into the document that are only visible under UV light. Using UV marks on documents have several security features, including being difficult to forge and are sensitive to tampering.

In our consultations, we found there is currently no way to verify the authenticity of a certificate without contacting FPENS directly to inquire about the individual certificate. (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022)

5. Prevalence of Fraudulent Certificates

Information on the prevalence of fraudulent FPENS certificates was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In follow-up correspondence with the Research Directorate, the FPENS Examination and Certificates Director stated the following on certificate fraud:

  1. FPENS Education Network is aware of [the] existence of forged certificates;
  2. Forged certificates are common;
  3. We do not have information on who provides these fake certificates;
  4. FPENS Education Network is combatting certificate fraud in two ways:
    1. by verifying the authenticity of certificates from its online tracking certificate to all those certificates that are verifiable from online systems;
    2. and by checking from our database to confirm the authenticity of any certificate that might not be in the online tracking system and replying to all requesting emails.

    These measures have been effective for a long duration and reduced production of forged certificates significantly. (FPENS 13 Jan. 2022)

The lawyers, in consultation with other sources, stated that "there are instances of forged certificates," which were "quite common" prior to 2018; however, they are "substantially" less common since 2018 with the addition of new security features (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022). The same source indicated that "the Abdalla Shideey market is recognized for selling forged documents. This well-known market has many different forged documents available, [but] the availability of education certificates in this market is unknown" (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022).

Concerning the measures employed by the MoECHE to combat fraud, the lawyers, in consultation with other sources, stated the following:

In 2015, the Ministry of Education decreed [that] all grade 12 students are required to complete a centralized exam administered by the Ministry. Students are required to pass this exam with a minimum score of 50% to be issued a certificate and assessed to have completed higher school. Students are also required to obtain this certificate in order to continue to post-secondary education, whether in the country or abroad.

To be eligible to complete the Ministry-administered exam, students must pass with a minimum score of 50% their private higher school exam. Students can only continue their education, [whether] locally, nationally, or internationally, after completing both exams administered by their school and the Ministry. To clarify, a student will not be considered a graduate of higher school and given a certificate until they complete both [the] exams of their school and the Ministry.

Given [that] all students might not be eligible to sit for the Ministry centralized exam, the Ministry has developed multiple safeguards to ensure [that] students are eligible. The Education Management Information System (EMIS) is a database developed and managed by the Ministry of Education to track education institutions and student registration.

Each education institution has a customized log in (username and password). In this system, education institutions are required to register all students attending the schools from elementary to secondary schools. Student are registered with their personal information and an individualized roll number that is assigned to each student for the entirety of their education. Once they complete grade 12, students can sit the Ministry exam. Students who did not pass the Ministry exams are also documented in the EMIS system and student have the opportunity to sit for the exam in the following year or a later date. (Lawyers 14 Jan. 2022)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The purpose of the World Bank study was to develop "an evidence base for understanding non-state education providers in the broader Somali education ecosystem," and to "identify opportunities for cooperation between state and non-state actors" (World Bank Aug. 2018, 14).

References

European Union (EU). September 2021. European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Somalia Key Socio-Economic Indicators: Country of Origin Information Report. [Accessed 4 Jan. 2022]

Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). 13 January 2022. Examination and Certificates Office. Correspondence from the Director to the Research Directorate.

Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). 10 January 2022. Examination and Certificates Office. Correspondence from the Director to the Research Directorate.

Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). [2020]. A Concise Report on FPENS Activities 1999-2019. [Accessed 30 Dec. 2021]

Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). N.d.a. "About Us." [Accessed 27 Dec. 2021]

Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). N.d.b. "Fpens Certificate Tracking." [Accessed 30 Dec. 2021]

Gonnelli, Michele. 27 November 2018. The Italophone Somali Diaspora and Social Change in Somalia. PhD Thesis. Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany. [Accessed 4 Jan. 2022]

Lawyers, law firms in Somalia, the US and Canada. 14 January 2022. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

World Bank. August 2018. Altai Consulting. Study on Understanding the Role of Non-State Education Providers in Somalia: Final Report. [Accessed 30 Dec. 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: journalist specializing in education matters in Somalia; professor specializing in education policies in Somalia at a Somali university; Somali Canadian and Rural Development Organization; Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke; Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton; Somali Canadian Society of Calgary; Somali Development Center; Somali Public Agenda.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Asylum Research Centre Foundation; Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Austrian Red Cross – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin & Asylum Research and Documentation; Factiva; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Mareeg Media; Netherlands – Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Norway – Landinfo; Norwegian Refugee Council; Somalia – Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education; UK – Home Office; UN – Refworld, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF.

Attachments

  1. Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). N.d. Examination and Certificates Office. Blank copy of the paper used for elementary and secondary school certificates. Sent to the Research Directorate by the Director of the Examination and Certificates Office of FPENS, 10 January 2022.
  2. Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). N.d. Examination and Certificates Office. Blank copy of the paper used for Banadir Teacher Training Institute (BTTI) diploma certificates. Sent to the Research Directorate by the Director of the Examination and Certificates Office of FPENS, 10 January 2022.
  3. Formal Private Education Network in Somalia (FPENS). 2 December 2021. Secondary School Certificate. Sent to the Research Directorate by lawyers from law firms in Somalia, the US and Canada, 15 January 2022. Translated into French by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada.