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Heroes of their nation

Heroes of their nation
Heroes of their nation

Aiglon’s links to Somaliland started with Ali (Alpina, 1971) and Ahmed Egal (Alpina, 1972), the proud sons of the country’s first president. A new partnership with Abaarso School builds on that success – and perhaps one day will enable Aiglon to educate a future president.

When Abdiqani Mohamed (Belvedere, 2023,) graduated last year, he became the first scholar from Abaarso School in Somaliland to do so. Today, Abdiqani is the embodiment of Aiglon’s emphasis on the lifechanging power that education offers. “We believe in nurturing the academic, intellectual and character development of promising Somalilander students,” says Mrs Karen Sandri, Director of Philanthropy & Community Engagement, “so that they can effectively and ethically advance their society as the leaders of tomorrow. “So our support of Abdiqani doesn’t end at graduation. He was offered an 80 percent scholarship to go to Texas Christian University,” explains Mrs Sandri. “His family couldn’t afford the extra 20 percent, so the school awarded another 10 percent from the Higher Education Fund set up by the Board to assist scholars in their transition to university, and we were able to raise the final 10 percent from donations from our generous Aiglon community. This programme isn’t just about bringing scholars to Aiglon but also helping them take their next steps.”

Aiglon’s links to Somaliland – an independent state that has seen years of struggle – date back to the 1970s. Muhammed Haji Ibrahim Egal, who served as Prime Minister of the newly formed Somali Republic in 1960, and again between 1967 and 1969, would spend 16 years in jail after his government was overthrown, and so he sent his two sons, Ali (Alpina, 1971) and Ahmed (Alpina, 1972), to safety at Aiglon. He was subsequently released and elected President of the new Republic of Somaliland, a role he held until his death in 2002. Today, Somaliland has a stable government and peaceful elections, and Egal is regarded as a hero of the nation. But the country continues to battle the deep structural problems that result from a society riven by war: 30 percent of citizens live below the poverty line; all schools were destroyed in the civil war; and fewer than 45 percent of school-age children attend primary school.

Abaarso School of Science and Technology is key to improving access to education and developing the leaders of tomorrow. A boarding school for 7th to 12th grade students, founded in 2009 by US financier Jonathan Starr, Abaarso focuses on educating the next generation of leaders – with incredible success. More than 100 alumni are now continuing their education across the world, and in 2017, the Abaarso network opened Barwaaqo University, the first ever boarding university for women in Somaliland.

Aiglon is proud to be part of Abaarso School’s story. This year, alumnus Ali Egal accompanied Mrs Sandri and Mr Tomas Duckling, Deputy School Director and Head of the Scholarship Programme, on a trip to Abaarso to find Aiglon’s next Somaliland scholar. “When I first heard that there was a scholar from Somaliland at Aiglon – through an Abaarso graduate I met – I was very surprised,” says Ali. “I thought it was impossible! So I was very pleased to accompany Mrs Sandri and Mr Duckling to the school, and see how impressed they were by these young people.”

Mrs Sandri says that Ali was an inspiration. “I knew that his father had been an extraordinary man. And other alumni had spoken of Ali with awe and respect. So when we started revamping the Scholarship Programme, we wanted to visit all our partner schools before conducting the online interviews. To see the esteem in which Ali’s family is held in Somaliland was truly wonderful.

“In fact, when we visited the primary school, the children were doing a report on his father! It was amazing to see the looks on their faces when Ali walked in and said: ‘Hey, that’s my dad!’ And, of course, I was impressed by the sheer dedication, enthusiasm and ambition of the potential scholars.”

For Mr Duckling, the trip was also an eye-opener. “It was so important for me to add context to the experience of our Somalilander students. I see their experience of arriving and living at Aiglon entirely differently having been there, seen their lives, learned about their culture, and learned about the trouble the country faces. It was such a privilege to be welcomed into their school by these incredibly proud people, who have been through so much.”

Donating to the Scholarship Programme benefits not just the scholars but also the school itself, says Ali. “It brings a different perspective to everyone in a world that is becoming increasingly polarised. Apart from education, these scholarships bring people together and give everybody a new point of view. These young Somalilanders who go on to scholarships at Aiglon enter a completely different universe. It opens our eyes when we are confronted with people who come from a country with such insecurity yet are courageous and intelligent and determined to overcome. It is inspirational.”

Read the full 2023 Annual Review



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