Sister University of abaarso school

Our Team

The founders of Barwaaqo were behind the incredible success of the Abaarso school, a 7th-12th grade, co-ed boarding school in Somaliland, whose graduates have scholarships to top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown and MIT.

Marlee Burns

Head of School

Marlee Burns is the incoming Head of School for 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.


Director of Academics

Liz is from Northwestern Ontario, Canada. She has a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Master of Arts in English Philology with a focus on adult language education from LCC in Klaipeda, Lithuania. She is a candidate for a Master in Public Administration from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.  She has worked in corporate training and development programs in South Korea and Czech Republic, with military language training programs in Kuwait, and public and private high schools in China. 

At Barwaaqo, she started in the role of Teacher Specialist in the fall of 2020 where she worked with the faculty professional development programming. In her current role as Director of Academics, she is focused on developing quality academic programs at the university in the Faculty of Education and the coming Faculty of Business.  Liz also teaches courses in the Faculty of Education and Faculty of English.


Staff Onboarding & Welfare Coordinator

Unity was born and raised in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa. She holds an Honours Degree in Law, graduated class of 2017 at the University of Zimbabwe. She also holds Certification in Leadership and Entrepreneurship Training. She worked as a Procurement Officer and Legal Advisor for a mining company in Zimbabwe for 3 years before joining the Abaarso Network as Faculty at Barwaaqo University in January 2021. She is Faculty for Computers and the Faculty Onboarding and Welfare Coordinator for Barwaaqo. Her passion for the emancipation of women and education for African women to climb the corporate ladder is what motivated her to join Barwaaqo University.


Dean of Montessori

Yvonne is originally from Zimbabwe. She is currently a Montessori Specialist at Barwaaqo University in Somaliland. She is very passionate about education, especially the education of young minds using the Montessori Approach. What she likes specifically is that Montessori fosters independence and curiosity prompting children to be aware, innovative, adaptive and independent. She graduated from Headstart Montessori College with a Higher Diploma in Early Childhood Studies. Yvonne has worked in different countries around the African Continent focusing on Montessori Education. She is a mom of two wonderful children.



Academic Administrative Coordinator

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.


Head of Finance

Vidas grew up in the tiny island state of Singapore. He graduated with a degree in Finance from Murdoch University in 2017. Coming from a country just over 700 square kilometres, Vidas has had a great impetus to travel out of home to see more. From backpacking across the mountains of Japan and New Zealand, training in the valleys of Germany and teaching English in a small town in China, he appreciates the opportunities to experience the differences between his culture and others. Vidas is currently in the Barwaaqo University finance department.


Communications Lead, Library Administrator

Sophia spent the majority of her childhood in Chicago, USA. She attended school at the University of Missouri where she was involved in numerous public health initiatives within the local community. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences in 2019 with minors in Human Development and Family Sciences, Psychology, and a Multicultural Certificate. Immediately following graduation, she moved to Seoul, South Korea where she taught English at a private academy and volunteered as an English tutor and speech coach for North Korean refugees. It was there that Sophia discovered her passion for international education and literacy. 


Teaching Faculty, Technology Department

Ebony is a native of New Jersey. She received her BA in Film & Television Production from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Ebony took a detour from telling stories through film and became an advocate for children and families as a social worker. Throughout her career, Ebony has taken on personal projects to further give back to communities and young girls by creating an enrichment program called ‘Dream Catchers’ and curating boxes to inspire and uplift young girls of color ‘The Black Girl Joy Box.’ Ebony has had the pleasure of traveling to 23 countries as well as working internationally as a teacher in South Korea. Ebony continues her passion for storytelling by documenting her travels, interviewing extraordinary people she meets along the way and sharing the world with her students. She is very excited about continuing her journey as an educator in Somaliland.  Ebony believes that you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive in today’s world; your personality, your sense of humor, and most importantly, your heart.


Teaching Faculty, English Department

Shifa’s extensive experience as an English language professional has given her a thorough working knowledge of how to maximize learning for students. Since the Covid pandemic, most of her teaching has been online and has used educational technology to meet language learning objectives.


Teaching Faculty, Technology Department

Edwina graduated from University College London with a MA in Education, Gender and International Development. She has worked in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, China in the past six years as an international development professional, focusing on youth development, women empowerment and wildlife conservation. Born and raised in China, she values having a genuine connection with people from all over the world through appreciating different cultures and learning new languages. She is excited to join the Barwaaqo faculty team with a firm belief in girls’ education.


Teaching Faculty, 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.


School Communications Coordinator

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. He is currently our faculty member at Barwaaqo University teaching Environmental sustainability and Ecosystems. He believes that we must increase the number of Somali girls that go to school and see more Somali educated women. In his free time, he enjoys reading books and understanding the nature around him. 



Teaching Faculty, English Department

Morgan is joining us from Vancouver, Canada, where she attended the University of British Columbia, receiving a BA in History with a focus on postcolonial politics and most recently a BEd in Secondary Social Studies. In Vancouver she worked in low-income housing, providing support for newcomers to Canada. She has had the privilege to live and work in several countries including with youth entrepreneurship programs in Ghana and Uganda. Morgan is passionate about accessible, community-led education. In her free time, she likes listening to music and being with her family, friends, and dogs, preferably in nature.




Farxiya is an Abaarso alumnae, graduating with the class of 2020. After graduation, she started working at Barwaaqo University as an intern. Farxiya likes to fix things around campus–she learned a lot from her high school computer science teacher and this is something she is especially grateful for. Farxiya enjoys playing chess and basketball in her free time. Her favorite shows are Silicon Valley and The Simpsons.