Community leaders are taking a stand, literally moving villages, to make it safe for girls to go to school.
Imagine sending your child to school knowing they have to cross two rushing rivers to get there. That’s the daily reality of 306 students in the town of Batali during the rainy season. If they make it to school, they have to fight for a seat. Batali’s Grade 5 class has 52 students sharing five desks in one open-air classroom. There’s also a narrow log bench, but most will end up sitting or standing on sandy soil.
“WE ARE SPREADING THE WORD THAT THERE CAN BE NO CHANGE IN OUR SOCIETY IF WE DON’T EDUCATE OUR GIRLS.” — SHUKRI ADAM, PTA MEMBER
This is all about to change. Batali is one of the Meda Welabu district’s 58 communities, and with the support of this project, children in Batali will soon have a brand new school. This time, it will be on the opposite side of the two rivers, so students no longer have to make the dangerous trek across them. “This is a community decision,” says Shukri Adam, Chairman of the Kebele and member of the Parent Teacher Association. “We have also decided to shift a few residents from this area (where the old school is), to the new area (where the new school will be), so that no students have to walk across the rivers. “This is a result of the training and conversations we’ve had with imagine1day. Community associations engage in the school and they are now leaders who personally invest and cooperatively engage with these problems,” he says.
Not all attitudes are transformed; out of 306 students, only 73 are girls. “Families still have a conservative attitude and many prefer to marry their daughters than to send them to school,” says Adam. “We are spreading the word that there can be no change in our society if we don’t educate our girls. We are especially speaking to mothers because they are very influential. Change is slow, but it’s coming.”
2014 Game Plan
In the first of a three-year project in Meda Welabu, our focus is on developing relationships with communities, the district government and the school faculty, while also building critical infrastructure.
WE’RE BUILDING SCHOOLS AND LATRINES
Four schools to be exact, each with four furnished classrooms serving grades 5-8. We’ll also build an ECE classroom and playground adjacent to each school. Four eight-stall gender divided latrines will complete this year’s construction plans.
CLASSROOMS WILL BE EQUIPPED WITH KEY NECESSITIES
58 schools will receive desks (836 of them) so more kids can learn in comfort. Across the district we’ll provide 7,883 books, 25 science kits, and 25 sports sets. We’ll set up student leadership school clubs and creative writing programs too.
TEACHERS AND COMMUNITIES WILL DEVELOP AND GROW
We’ll build leadership across the district by developing the government’s capacity. In 58 schools we’ll train religious leaders, women, influencers, and the PTA. Teachers across the district will receive extensive professional development.
Dry and arid, with acacia trees lining red earth and surrounding statuesque termite towers, Meda Welabu is a pastoralist district known for its extreme heat and wild summer rains. Its education indicators are among the weakest in all of Ethiopia with primary school enrolment at just 46%, drop out rates at 22%, and approximately two thirds the number of girls attending school as compared to boys. Over the next three years we aim to transform Meda Welabu’s education system, in partnership with communities and the District Education Office.
Through leadership development programs that we’ll put on for Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), religious and political leaders, and women’s associations; girls, orphans and other vulnerable children who are often at risk of not going to school, will have an equal opportunity to others. By constructing classrooms to serve Grades 5-8, children who would otherwise drop out of school after the 4th grade because the distance to reach Grade 5 is just too far, will now have the chance to continue learning in a brand new school near to their home. Our early childhood education (ECE) strategy will encourage parents to send their aspiring scholars to school at a young age, inspiring education as a household value and resulting in children starting primary school at the appropriate age. Teacher professional development programs and improvements in the quality of school learning environments will bring achievement and attitude changes across the board, and will help reduce drop outs.
The best part of all, this project is being implemented through a funding partnership with Educate a Child, who have made a commitment to match every dollar you contribute. This is a great chance to double your impact.
WHERE’S MEDA WELABU
Meda Welabu is part of the Bale Zone in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region.