From donkeys outside the classroom to students with cellphones, teacher across the world deal with classroom distraction every day. This World Teachers Day, we took at look at what Ethiopian educators face.

In open air Ethiopian classrooms – built without windows, doors or even four walls – the weather presents many challenges.

When the wind blows, the dust flies into your eyes. When it rains, the roof echoes so loudly you can’t hear the teacher speak. When it’s windy and rainy, one of the few notepads you own is going to get wet.

On a calm day, it should be the perfect day to teach.

Tsige Mekonnen, a science teacher, stands on the grounds of Adishumhafti School.

Tsige Mekonnen, a science teacher at Adishumhafti School.

Not so, says Tsige Mekonnen, a science teacher at Adishumhafti School.

“There is a lot of distraction. The door and windows do not have any cover, so students are distracted by anything passing by.”

To understand quite how serious this is; imagine a world without cars and fences. That is rural Ethiopia. It is nothing like the neighbourhoods of North America.

Huts are dotted sporadically around the land and there are no fences along property lines. Animals are not kept fenced in paddocks and the school is not fenced off from the community it serves.

People and their animals travel – sometimes great distances – by foot and they take the most direct route nature allows. Whether transporting goods or herding livestock, passerby’s are all-too-common a distraction outside classrooms in Ethiopia.

It’s just one of the many distractions teachers deal with, and it’s one we are helping them resolve.

Where the need is greatest, we construct new classrooms. Across all our supported districts, we also invest in teachers.

We give teachers – who, at teachers’ college learn the curriculum but not much else – the tools to properly engage their students. That means involving students in group activities and pupil-led presentations. It means developing science experiments using locally available material, and teaching reading and writing through fun activities, like drama and storytelling.

“I used to use teacher-centered approach,” say Tsige. “Thanks to imagine1day’s training, now I have shifted to a student-centered approach. I was doing all the talk, but now their confidence has developed as they are given the opportunity to speak.”

For Tsige, and the other 6000 teachers we have trained, it means they can create a classroom interested in learning, not passing donkeys.