Over 350,000 children and adults across the Horn of Africa (Somaliland, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya) are learning to read and write in Somali with a free language app, Daariz.
Launched in 2021, Daariz aims to address the region’s low literacy rates by making language skills more accessible and inclusive for learners of all ages.
Daariz was developed by the Sahamiye Foundation, a charity working to improve education in the Horn of Africa and empower all people with lifelong literacy skills.
The Horn of Africa currently faces a multitude of challenges, from an absence of rural schools to recurring droughts and ongoing conflict, coupled with a highly mobile population which all contribute to low school enrolment and limited access to quality education.
As a result, over 70 percent of late primary school students in the region cannot read and understand a simple story in Somali. The region’s average school enrolment, at around 30 percent, also continues to be one of the lowest in the world.
Developed in response to these challenges, Daariz offers virtual reading, writing, and comprehension lessons, and a digital library, ensuring everyone can access a consistent and high-quality education.
Daariz is designed to help in-school and out-of-school children and adults achieve functional literacy in the Somali language within a short period of time. It combines fun, interactive games, and personalized feedback with a reward system, making learning enjoyable and engaging.
The app’s offline access has critically enabled more women and girls, who face significant educational barriers, to acquire literacy skills remotely. About 48 percent of Daariz learners are women and girls which is significantly higher than female school enrolment in the region.
Safiya, a market stall owner in the city of Hargeisa, said: “In the beginning, reading was difficult for me and I struggled to understand names or other texts. I spend most of my time at my stall in the market of Hargeysa. I downloaded the Daariz program and began using it regularly, dedicating two hours each morning. I would spend 30 minutes reading each page. I continued this way for six months. Now, my reading has improved significantly and I have started to read and write on my own.”
With speed and automaticity being essential for effective literacy development, Daariz helps people to develop their pace with reading and retention of information. This focus has significantly reduced the time it takes to achieve functional literacy, from 450 hours to just 50.
Daariz also incorporates culturally relevant elements like virtual camels and badges to engage learners. Earning a herd of a hundred ‘virtual camels’ – cherished symbols of wealth in Somali culture – indicates achievement of functional literacy, a critical milestone. To date, learners have earned an impressive five million ‘camels’ for their literacy achievements. Soon, learners’ virtual camel stock will outnumber the actual seven million-strong real Somali camel grazing in the Horn of Africa region.
Ismail Ahmed, the founder of The Sahamiye Foundation, said: “Daariz fills a critical gap in the Horn of Africa, providing accessible and engaging literacy education where it’s most needed. The 350,000 learners is not just a number, but a testament to our shared belief in the transformative power of literacy. Each person represents a story of resilience, potential, and a brighter future.”
“Our vision is to unlock the potential of every learner, regardless of their location or situation. Daariz equips people of all ages with the confidence to learn at their own pace, challenge themselves, and have fun in the process. This is particularly important for girls, students who are out-of-school, and adults who may have missed out on schooling.”
Daariz further supports learners to progress and improve their skills by monitoring test results, app usage, engagement levels, and speed reading performance.