April 25, 2014 4:51 pm

Murdered Somali youth motivated group to launch educational task force

Watch video above: (April 24) Somali community fears stigmatization with new TDSB action plan. 

Warsame Ali was just 26 years old when he and a friend were shot and killed.

They were the fifth and sixth young Somali-Canadian men to be killed in Toronto in 2012.

That sparked Ali’s Mother, Habiba Adan to look for answers as to why the young men were dying.

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She was part of A Positive Change Toronto – a group of people from the Somali community who wanted to look at what was happening to their young men.

One of the things that stood out was education.

According to the TDSB, Somali-Canadian students have a 25 per cent dropout rate – 11 points higher than the board average.

“There is no doubt. Numbers don’t lie,” Adan said.

Read More: Somali community fears stigmatization with new TDSB action plan

The dropout rate increases to 33 per cent for Somali boys.

Adan says there is a need to focus on the children in schools, to keep them in schools, in order to combat violence.

“If the child or youth drops out of the school, then they are not working,” Adan said. “There is no place else to go and it will be very easy to be attracted to illegal things.”

In 2012, the group approached the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) about starting a task force, similar to the one that started to address the problems with Portuguese students.

The next year, the 22 person task force released a list of recommendations including more scholarships, homework help and a focus on Somalia in the curriculum.

The Canadian Somali Congress and a group of concerned parents and members of the community however say the recommendations send the wrong message.

Ahmed Hussen says that by targeting Somali youth would only stigmatize them.

“They have to be segregated and stigmatized in order to get help with their school work?” Hussen asked.  “A regular student who is struggling gets help within the system.”

Adan says people can have their opinions, but the goal should be to help the children.

“Helping them within the system will increase their self-esteem and their chance to succeed, that is what we are looking for,” she said.

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