You can’t solve the issues that prevent children from enrolling in school if you don’t know what the issues are, and the best people to identify these problems are community members themselves.

Since imagine1day started working in southern Ethiopia’s Oromia region in January, we’ve helped 101 communities in the districts of Dello Mena and Meda Welabu organize monthly coffee ceremonies. Parents, teachers, school administrators, religious leaders and community leaders are all invited to participate in frank discussions about out-of-school children, the importance of girls’ education and any other issues facing their schools. “It’s better than inviting people to a meeting,” says Muleken Alemu, a teacher and member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in Yadot. “It’s a very good forum to share ideas, to say what you want and to discuss solutions. It serves as a catalyst to push people to say something and to come up with resolutions for the school,” she says.

In Sontikera, coffee ceremonies have already helped the community deal with some of the issues plaguing their school. “The coffee ceremony is a very good platform for us. The first thing we discussed is absenteeism. We agreed parents should send their kids to school instead of using their labour. Kids are still dropping out of school regularly. We are very committed to recruiting all out-of-school children and these are the issues we have been discussing,” says Tesfay Girma, Sontikera’s school principal. Coffee ceremonies are just one of imagine1day’s arsenal of tools, but they’ve proved to be extremely fruitful and well received by local communitiesIt goes to show that big problems don’t always need expensive solutions. Sometimes, all it takes is a cup of coffee and candid conversation.