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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 3 May 2007
Let’s have a GCSE for nation of poets

•  I WOULD like to see Camden take a lead and lobby for GCSE courses in Somali.
As a mother and resident for more than a decade, fully involved in  school governorship and the community, I have been  very much exposed to the unmet need for a Somali GCSE subject.

There are more than 1,200 Somali children in Camden’s education system and Somali people make up the second largest black and minority ethnic group in the borough.
It is fascinating how fast young Somalis pupils learn English and lose their mother tongue – and with it all ties with the Somali culture, language and historical background.
For a people known as a nation of ‘poets’, this has a detrimental effect for the preservation of such rich heritage. Somali poetry relies on being passed on orally, through its people, through reciting and through communities.
The introduction of optional Somali language lessons towards a GCSE would increase the chances of people of Somali origin accessing further education. As A-level students need a minimum of five decent GCSE passes, this would help boost the percentage of people gaining the magic number. Currently only 90 Somali pupils are in Camden sixth forms.
Not only would it help them access further education, it would help raise their self-esteem. It would help give them an understanding of their immigrant culture and by offering a class like this at their school, it could help them integrate into the education system and perform better in other classes.
This is backed by Home Office research, which suggests offering alternative language GCSEs has a positive effect on the curriculum as a whole.
There has been large support for Somali classes run by Somali-led community organisations such as the British Somali Community at South Camden Community School. However, what it has not achieved is formal accreditation as a GCSE subject.
Currently there is no recognised GCSE in the subject, but the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in Bloomsbury offers a baccalaureate, and  they could possibly become course conveners. Tower Hamlets also runs Somali language courses in its schools.
There are 112 languages currently spoken in Camden schools, with 11,000 pupils speaking two languages – 50 per cent of the school population.
This has lead to more options for GCSE curses. Currently pupils can choose to take Ancient Greek, Bengali, French, German, Italian, Latin, Mandarin and Spanish.
To be a good citizens all children need an identity and language is a principal element.
We all have a stake in supporting the future Somali generations to integrate in the mainstream society on equal terms.
Kentish Town Road, NW5

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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