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Prof. Said Salah Ahmed

Award-Winning Author, Playwright and Teacher

My name is Said Salah Ahmed. I was born in the northeast of Somalia where the high mountains slope down to the Red Sea. Before schooling, I was nomadic. I watched the goats and sheep. I sailed with my father on his dhow. He wanted me to be a sea captain. I called myself General SS Ahmed.

When I was six I enrolled in the first elementary school in Somalia. As a child I was selected to act in plays written by my teacher. When I was eleven I started writing poetry because of the rough times.

I traveled 120 miles with a camel caravan to get to middle school. When I was in 8th grade, the assistant principal caught me teaching in an empty classroom. I started teaching 4th and then 6th graders. I wrote plays and more poetry.

My high school was the teacher training center. I taught there for 5 years. After that, in 1968, I attended the College of Education for 4 years. I was a biology major. I was known to people of my country as a poet and playwright.

I wrote one of the famous plays in Somalia with my colleagues. When we wrote a second play, one of the writers was thrown in jail. We were censored and harassed. That is what made the play famous.

I was principal of a high school. Then I was the principal of a teacher training school in Mogadishu. I was responsible to support the arts, the student organizations and the teacher organizations. I wrote textbooks, plays, films and magazine articles. I did broadcasting. I was a voice for teachers and children. Teaching was my profession.

In December 1990 the Civil War started. Everything fell apart. I had to flee my country. I traveled south on top of a milk truck for 500 miles. I walked 500 miles on the boundary between Somalia and Kenya with my family. My brother-in-law was shot for no reason. I buried him and kept walking. In the Utanga Camp I established the largest school in a refugee camp at the time. I began teaching students. I wrote and directed a radio play for the BBC. The play aired for 17 weeks. It was about Somali peace and reconciliation.

In 1966 I came to Sanford as a bilingual teacher and still I am here. In my class I teach the book I wrote. This year I started a second job to teach at the University of Minnesota. Now Somali students can take my class as their second language instead of French or Spanish.

In 1979 I was awarded my nation’s bronze medal for my educational, cultural and artistic work. My song, “Midwife” was voted one of the top four in The United Nations International Year of the Child Children’s Song Contest. In 2005 I was awarded the Virginia McKnight Binger award for Human Service. These are some of my successes. Now I am an international speaker. I am a teacher at Sanford and a teacher for the world.