an Entity of Abaarso Network

Our Team

The founders of Barwaaqo University were behind the incredible success of Abaarso School. Barwaaqo’s team is full of qualified professionals from all around the world, with a predominant representation of talented women. 




Marlee Burns is the President of Barwaaqo University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, Middle Eastern Studies and Plan II Honors from the University of Texas at Austin, and her Masters in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. During her time at Stanford, her research focused on implementing design thinking curricula in schools. Her professional experience is at the intersection of rural education and technology, having spent time as a Fulbright Scholar in rural Azerbaijan and three years as the Head of Upper School at Abaarso School. She also interned with the White House during the Obama Administration and spent several years as an engineer with Down Dog App in Silicon Valley. She is thrilled to be returning to Somaliland and to be working with innovative, driven educators and brilliant young students.

Abdirashiid bio



Abdirashiid went to Abaarso School in 2010, graduated, and then got a scholarship at EARTH University in Costa Rica. Abdirashiid majored in Engineering Licentiate of agricultural sciences and natural resources management. He worked with Santa Rosa primary school, In Guacimo, Costa Rica teaching environmental protection. Also did his internship with CODECE Associacion y Conservación de Los Bosques, in Costa Rica as well. In 2019 he worked at Burao Academy for 9 months, Somaliland. During his last year of studies, he has developed and implemented a project with small farmers nearby EARTH UNIVERSITY, teaching agro-leadership and how to get marketing for their cassava production. He likes community development and believes in education and he promotes everyone to get a quality education.


Hesta Bio Photo


Director of Operations and Finance

Hesta is from Cape Town, South Africa. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a Masters of Arts in Philosophy and Visual Studies. She has worked at different universities in South Africa as academic writing consultant and full time lecturer. She has a deep passion for developing good female student leaders who know how to carry themselves in the classroom as well as out in the rest of the world. As Administrative Coordinator, Hesta focuses on assisting with the implementation of academic programmes like the Barwaaqo Professional Practice Internship programme and the Barwaaqo Writing Center. Hesta also teaches courses in the Faculty of Education and Faculty of English.

Pree bio


Faculty Welfare Coordinator, Head of Montessori Department

Prerana comes from Aurangabad a city in Maharashtra, India and holds a Primary level AMI Montessori International Diploma. She worked as a digital facilitator, trainer and content creator with IMB’s STEM for girl’s program led by Quest Alliance. She has also worked at the Tamarind Tree School with tribal students from western India on an individualized self-paced learning model. An individual with multi-disciplinary interests, Pree is a statistician, mountaineer and permaculture designer and has pioneered as a field researcher across India, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam. She has always been vocal about issues regarding social justice and environmental sustainability across her work. Pree joined us in September, 2021 and is now leading the Primary School Program at Barwaaqo.



Faculty Lead, Head of Math Department

Theresa Helke has previously taught at three other women’s institutions: (i) the Government Elementary College of Education run by Durbeen in Pakistan, (ii) Mount Holyoke College in the USA, and (iii) her alma mater Smith College, also in the USA. 


She wrote her doctoral dissertation in Logic (a subject at the intersection of Mathematics and Philosophy) while jointly supervised at the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College. She grew up in Switzerland as a third-culture kid.



Student Success Coordinator

Hazel, originally from Nairobi, Kenya, holds a Bachelor of Business Science degree in Financial Economics and a certificate in Counseling Psychology specializing in children and adolescents. While working in the banking and insurance sectors, she simultaneously pursued her passion for education by dedicating a decade to private math tutoring. Hazel is deeply committed to sustainable development in Africa. Her multifaceted background in finance, psychology, and education uniquely position her to serve the students of Barwaaqo. She is dedicated to empowering students both academically and personally, bridging the gap between education and practical skills to create a brighter and more sustainable future for Africa and beyond.

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Tuition Officer, Head of Technology Department

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Ljubinka is an experienced professor of English and a Data Analyst with a Master’s in Geographic Science from Hunter College in NYC, and a Master’s in Geology from the University of Belgrade. She has a demonstrated history of working in education, corporate risk, research, and marketing. She is skilled in calculating Financial Risk, Microsoft Excel, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Data Analysis. Ljubinka is a strong business professional with a Business Communication Focus Certificate from Cornell University and CELTA certificate. 



Nomagugu is originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She has extensive experience working in the human rights sector in South Africa. She holds an M.Phil. (Law and Political Justice) from the University of Pretoria. An opportunity to teach at the University of Tübingen, Germany sparked her desire to work with young people in further education. Nomagugu believes she has a lot to share with young women in order to shape and enhance their intellectual abilities. She also supports students’ academic readiness through offering basic computer literacy skills. In her free time, she enjoys taking long walks, traveling, cooking, and spending time with family.  



Meshalini is a South African who has taught across three countries and, most recently, has worked in e-learning and educational materials design. She qualified in both accounting (BCom) and education (BED Hons, PGCE), and is currently busy with a Masters degree. She is passionate about accessible, inclusive, quality education for all and her research interests include international comparative education, education equity, and education leadership. When she is not engaged in her work, she enjoys travel, adventure, poetry, and writing.