The University of Mogadishu is an open smoky-air classroom in Somalia. The main branch is in Mogadishu but it has many branches spread out over the country. Opened in 1991, the university charges differing fees per student for lessons. There are no lecturers, and therefore lectures. Learning is from experience and observation. No experiments are performed by any student who wishes to see the results obtained.
Like K’naan said, “…rocket propelled grenades shell your way if you front…”
I first got to know of this university from a dead man’s notebooks; even though I had always known about the open air classes. The young man here was Dan Eldon. Dan, born in the UK and raised in Kenya, never saw enough to want to see less, never knew enough to want to know less and never did enough to want to do less. Such was Dan’s life; the boy who was run down by a Buffalo and thus developed a respect for them, the man who temporarily dropped out of college to pursue a career in life, the one who drove from Kenya to Malawi to deliver aid to war stricken area with funds he raised with his friends, the one… the one who inspired me to take a course at the University of Mogadishu.
It should interest your curious mind how he possibly lit the flame that burns within me. I first heard of his full story during the Uongozi Bora 5, a youth leadership and citizenship program organized by The DEPOT in 2009. Dan’s story is not a fairy tale, or therefore not the prince in the fairy tale but the villain; for such was the ending. In 1992, Dan traveled to Somalia to cover the war that was going on, famine was at its worst. His inborn passion for photography saw him cover for Reuters. His charisma and passion for the people of Mogadishu earned him the title “Mayor of Mogadishu” among locals, friends and colleagues. In the morning of July 12th 1993, US troops launched an air attack on a building where Somali elders were meeting, killing indiscriminately; they believed that General Aideed was also in the building, which turned out erroneous. When word got to Dan and friends, fellow journalists, they quickly rushed to the scene where they were met by an angry mob. The angry mob turned onto them and stoned all four journalists to death. Dan’s story ends there… at the age of 22, he had lived a 120 year old’s life already.
A session in progress
Once a City of Glory
Sad ending. But let us get back to the smoky-air classrooms.