Private schools were closed or nationalized in 1972, and all education was put under the jurisdiction of the central government. In 1975 primary education was made compulsory. A minimum of eight years of schooling at the primary level is mandatory; however, many prospective students, particularly among the nomadic population, cannot be accommodated. Secondary education lasts for four years but is not compulsory. A mass literacy campaign was conducted in the mid-1970s, but there is some question as to how lasting the effects were, particularly among the nomadic population. In the mid-1980s, literacy remained low, perhaps 18% among adult men and 6% among adult women. In 1990 UNESCO estimated the adult literacy rate to be 24.1% (males, 36.1%; females, 14.0%). An estimated 2% of government expenditure was allocated to education in the period between 1986 and 1993.
In 1985, there were 196,496 pupils and 10,338 teachers in 1,224 primary schools, and 45,686 students and 2,786 teachers in secondary schools. The same year, 5,933 secondary school children were in vocational courses. The Somali National University, located at Mogadishu, also had a technical college, a veterinary college, and schools of public health, industry, seamanship and fishing, and Islamic disciplines. All institutions at the higher level had 817 teachers and 15, 672 students in 1986.
During 1992, Somalia was in a state of anarchy and not only did the country's economy collapse, but its educational system as well. Few schools were operating and even the Somali National University was closed in 1991. As of 1996, some schools were beginning to reopen.