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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05DJIBOUTI246 2005-03-07 13:11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

DJIBOUTI SEEKS ASSISTANCE IN MONITORING ISLAMIC

Tags:   PREL PGOV EAID SCUL SOCI DJ SA 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L DJIBOUTI 000246 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF, AF/E
STATE ALSO PASS USAID
NAIROBI FOR REDSO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID SCUL SOCI DJ SA
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI SEEKS ASSISTANCE IN MONITORING ISLAMIC
SCHOOLS

REF: DJIBOUTI 149

Classified By: AMBASSADOR MARGUERITA D. RAGSDALE.
REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).



1. (C) During Ambassador and USAID Director's February 23
call on Minister of Education Abdi Ibrahim Absieh (see
septel), the Minister informed us of his concern that his
Ministry lacked knowledge of and control over the country's
growing network of Islamic schools. These schools, he said,
which provide instruction in Arabic, with a healthy dose of
religion as focal point, have been out of the reach of
government regulation. According to Absieh, 12,000 children
attend the 55 such schools currently in operation. He
expressed fear that they could become breeding grounds for
terrorists. Absieh described the schools under Yemeni
direction as "progressive", but said this was not the case
for those under Egyptian and Saudi direction.



2. (C) Absieh continued that his ministry was unaware of the
kind of curriculum being taught at these schools and that
better control was needed. He requested assistance from the
U.S. in developing a strategy and action plan for dealing
with these schools, as well as a curriculum, that would track
those of other private schools operating in Djibouti,
including those conducted by French private organizations.
Absieh cited specifically the Saudi-directed institution
located in close proximity to the Ministry of Education where
500 students are believed to be enrolled. "We have no idea
what is taught in this school," he said, "and it does not
follow our curriculum." He said he has invited Yemeni
experts, who will arrive soon to work in his ministry, to
propose a curriculum and criteria for training that will
ensure a quality education for Djibouti's youth and better
equip his Ministry to evaluate these schools. Ambassador
pledged to consult with USAID and get back to Absieh on the
issue.



3. (C) Comment: At the outset of its education program in
Djibouti, USAID hired an outside consultant to assess
Djibouti's Islamic schools. The consultant was eventually
blocked from these schools as an "American spy." His terms
of reference are still in USAID files here. While the
progressive Minister of Education is cognizant of the
challenges posed by the independent operation of Islamic
schools, the government of Djibouti lacks the political will
to move deliberately to challenge them. The schools often
fulfill a genuine need the government is unable to provide.
In virtually all cases, the schools in question have been
built, furnished, managed and funded with no contribution
from the government of Djibouti. In the case of Saudi
schools, the curriculum follows that of the concerned
ministry in Saudi Arabia, be it religious affairs or
education. Informal efforts by Djibouti to regularize these
schools, as laid out in its education reform plan, have been
rebuffed by those who control the schools. Djibouti is
gambling that the U.S.'s vested interest in preventing the
spread of extremist ideology might help push the U.S. to the
forefront of Djibouti's own effort to control these schools.
We and Djibouti will need to tread carefully as we discuss
the potential to assist in this area. End comment.
RAGSDALE