Keeping children in school amid poverty and conflict

In conflict-affected areas in Ethiopia, UNICEF and partners are working to restore education.

“Only education has made it possible for me to regain confidence after all the trauma, fear, and pain,” says 14-year-old Mihiret Ayenew, from Lalibela, Amhara region, Ethiopia. Mihiret was born and raised in Hawassa, Sidama region. She had a good life until the conflict that erupted in the city changed everything. “I had a very good life, but now I have nothing.”. Mihiret then

moved to Lalibela to live with her farmer uncle. Yet again, another conflict in Lalibela adds more trauma. Besides, her uncle is struggling to make ends meet. “I felt like I became a burden to him. Every time I run out of pen and exercise books; I worry that my education comes to an end.”

9-year-old Yitbarek Melkamu is also not lucky enough to bear a charmed life. He is an orphan living with his siblings in Lalibela. His elder brother and sister had to sacrifice their future in education working as daily laborers so that Yitbarek and the younger siblings could go to school. The conflict in the region also complicated their lives.

“I am lucky to attend school, but I feel bad that my elder brother and my sister are out of school to support us. They always tell me that I have to be a clever student. But, this year, they couldn’t afford to buy exercise book and pen for me, and I was about to quit learning,” says Yitbarek.

Both Mihiret and Yitbarek endured a lot of challenges at a young age, but they haven’t lost hope in their education.

Despite the poverty and conflict pausing a great deal of challenges, UNICEF, and its partner organization, imagine 1 Day, are working to restore children’s education with the support of the European Union. In Lalibela where Mihiret and Yitbarek are living, UNICEF and partners are rehabilitating schools to improve access. Children also received school supplies such as bags and exercise books. Support is also provided to children who have passed through psychological or psychosocial distress.

For children in emergencies, education is more than the right to learn. Miheret wants to become a lawyer and contribute to creating ‘a fair world’, while Yitbarek, on the other hand wants to become an engineer to improve his siblings lives and earn more income.

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