National Geographic : 1981 Jun
men cluster, each group intently listening to a radio. Rock music? Not at all. The BBC's twice-daily world news is on, a half-hour shortwave program in Somali. People Told What They Need to Know The government position on information is clear. President Siad Barre put it this way, years ago: "We have made it our duty to in form our people of whatever we believe to be of interest to them and to the country." Nat urally, the state-controlled radio and press purvey propaganda, directed by the appro priately named Ministry of Information and National Guidance. I called regularly at the ministry. They told me there of large expectations. Interna tional oil companies would soon be pros pecting; in the south, a new sugar plant; a search for uranium, Arab backed; ongoing road construction; agricultural develop ment. And now, television. "It will be small at first," an official told me in a paper-strewn office. "A reach of 200 kilometers from here." Down the hall a tele phone rang endlessly. "We are one of the last countries to get television. It will inform our people about agriculture, commerce, arts, and traditions. We must educate." No one could disagree with that. A United Nations specialist enlarged on it bluntly: "The major constraints to Somalia's prog ress are the lack of trained manpower and education. How many universities does So malia have? Just one." I made my way along a busy thoroughfare one morning to National University and Kassim Ibrahim, director of planning. "We're growing so fast," he said, "it's a strain keeping up. We're trying our best. Five years ago we had only four faculties: agriculture, economics, education, and law. Now there are 11." How many students? A total of 2,184, Mr. Ibrahim replied, 246 of them in the four year medical school. Late that afternoon at the Cathedral of Mogadishu I chanced to meet Sister Maria Antonia Pira, one of about 60 Italian Conso lata nuns who serve here. A nurse, she was not yet 30, sweet of face and careworn. "I deliver children," she said. "The hospi tal is overwhelmed. Imagine. More than 12,000 births a year. I help a Chinese doctor.