Improving access to education for marginalised girls in Ethiopia

Published: Apr 28, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
Improving access to education for marginalised girls in Ethiopia
© Foto: People In Need

People in Need, together with its partners from Alliance 2015, has been working for several years to improve education in Ethiopia, where access to education is very limited— especially for girls in remote rural areas. Child marriage, work, household chores, and family pressure, are some of the most common causes for dropping out of primary education. 

We are in a local school in Mukonisa, a village in Southern Ethiopia. The classroom is full of girls who are listening attentively to the teacher Shitaye Jebo. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many girls in Mukonisa. A quarter of local girls have left primary school, usually because they come from very large families (this area has the highest population density in Ethiopia and the highest birth rate) that cannot afford to send all of their children to school. At the same time, they need even more hands to work in the fields and in the household. When it comes down to the harvest season—mostly coffee—even girls who attended school usually drop out and never come back.

Senahit (11-years-old) has three sisters and four brothers. She started school but dropped out because she was needed to help in the field. “I would like to be an engineer in the future, therefore I need to study a lot,” she dreams.

We observe the classroom, the girls are eager to learn, and listen carefully. The teacher Shitaye Jebo is very excited about teaching these girls.

“It is my first job and I am happy to see these girls learning new things. They can now write and learn the local language and math.”

Although she has graduated from school and has a diploma, she has not yet found a job in a school, but with this experience, she has a good chance of establishing herself as a teacher afterwards.

It is obvious that Shitaye has a very friendly relationship with the girls, and that she cares deeply that they pass their courses with the best possible results. Shitaye is a perfect fit for the school environment, this is why she was selected as one of the teachers for our project. We have had more than twice as many applicants apply as we can accept, so the selection for this position was rigorous and the outcome is not obvious. We are only selecting those with a real track record and the necessary qualifications.

CHANGE project - The Girls Education Challenge
The project is establishing alternative basic education (ABE) and integrated functional adult education. Three-year ABE courses for girls aged nine to fourteen years are designed to enable the transition to formal education. Two-year courses for girls aged fifteen to eighteen strive to give girls the educational prerequisites for successful completion of a vocational course.

The CHANGE project is implemented by People in Need together with partners Concern World Wide (CWW), Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), Helvetas, Italian Association for Aid to Children (CIAI), Friendship Support Association (FSA) and Gayo Pastoral Development Initiative (GPDI). It is funded by UK AID. It is expected to reach 23 000 out-of-school girls nationally and 8,500 girls in SNNPR. 

A brighter future for young girls

Senahit (eleven years old), Zelau (twelve years old), and Asalefech (twelve years old) are the lucky ones. Thanks to People in Need, all three girls can pass the basic school minimum and then join the standard schooling programme at the upper primary level.” It is a chance for me to learn to read, write, and count well. In the future, I would like to become a nurse,” Zelau says with a smile on her face. 

Asalefech, is twelve years old. She has five brothers at home and is the only girl in the family. “Education has always been given more to the boys, I stayed at home to help in the household and with the harvest. Now I can go to school for the first time. I am excited and I hope to become Prime Minister in the future,” Asalefech says.

People in Need has helped more than 20,000 girls return to school. For some of them, it is really the only way to have a basic education. This is always a stepping stone further - it gives girls the opportunity to grasp their destiny firmly in their own hands.

Autor: Kateřina Gabrielová

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