Gelane Goes Back to School

Author Portrait_Temesgen Afeta, Community Mobilization & Communications Coordinator
Temesgen Afeta

Community Mobilization & Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Ethiopia

August 4, 2017

In the remote and rural West Showa district of Ethiopia, not all parents have equal understanding of the importance in sending their children to school, and how this helps them become productive adults and succeed in life. Some may not even think about helping their children in their education, as most lack the awareness on how significant a quality education can be for shaping their children’s futures.

12-year-old Gelane lives in a community where Save the Children sponsorship funded programs started in 2011. Initially, there had been no school in her village, and parents had been sending their children far away to get to school, or kept them at home altogether. In order to reach the closest school, children would need to travel an average of 3 hours a day on foot. Often, only the stronger, older children would be able to make the journey, however many older children are also pulled out of school to help support their families. Additionally, the teachers that were available were untrained and used traditional, rote memorization teaching methods that do not create a supportive learning environment for children. All this combined to keep attendance rates very low and, for what children did attend, learning was difficult and not interactive or fun.

Thanks to support from our sponsors, Save the Children was able to build a brand new school, train the teachers, provide learning materials and speak to parents about the importance of sending their children to school. Since then, all the children in the community have been going to school. Currently, the nearly 200 children from preschool to grade 4 who are now attending the new school would have found it nearly impossible to reach a school before. Through sponsorship across West Showa, new classrooms have been built in almost 50 different schools, supporting more than 30,000 children in accessing a quality education.

12-year-old Gelane is happy and proud to finally be back in school.
12-year-old Gelane is happy and proud to finally be back in school.

Gelane, though she went to the old school, had struggled in completing grades or attending consistently due to the distance and lack of engaging lessons once she got there. She dropped out in grade 3, already falling behind other students at just 9 years old. Her parents needed her support to handle extra chores around the home, while her older siblings were allowed to continue learning instead. Gelane was out of school and at home for an almost unbearably long two years.

Despite construction of the new school, dialogue amongst community members was still needed to sensitize parents and caregivers about the importance of an education. As a result of these efforts, sponsorship staff finally convinced Gelane’s parents that she should return to school.

With Gelane’s dream of returning to school realized, she has been able to continue her learning in the same grade from when she had been forced to drop out. Today, she is enjoying school with both old and new friends, and participating in sponsorship’s literacy, numeracy and school health and nutrition programs at school. She found the school environment she returned to was full of new storybooks and lively and fun lessons for her to participate in. For example, through the newly established Girls’ Club, she is gaining important knowledge about how to keep her body safe and healthy as she becomes a woman – something she couldn’t get a word on from either of her parents at home as the topic is considered taboo. Additionally, at the newly established community learning center in her village, also set-up thanks to sponsors, she is able to practice her reading skills outside of school or on the weekends by using or borrowing the reading materials now available there.

Gelane studying with some classmates from her sponsorship supported school.
Gelane studying with some classmates from her sponsorship supported school.

Today, Gelane dreams of completing all the grades in school, like her peers. She hopes that the support she is getting both in school and at the community learning center will help make this dream a reality.

Gelane’s teacher, Shure, shared, “There are many children like Gelane, in the communities, who are born with a lot of potential but unlucky in getting a chance to make their dreams successful… Save the Children is supporting on this through community mobilization, and go-to-school and back-to school-campaigns. Many children are getting back to school as a result. We hope the situation will improve.”

Little by little, things are changing in Ethiopia, and the children and families there have sponsors to thank for that. Thank you for your support to brighten the future for children in West Showa!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Summer Learning Camps

Author Portrait_Rida Abasambi Abagojam, Education Program Coordinator
Rida Abasambi Abagojam

Education Program Coordinator

Save the Children in Ethiopia

March 6, 2017

I felt very fortunate when I joined Save the Children’s Sponsorship team in Oromia as Education Program Coordinator in 2015. I work with a highly committed and energetic team that is shaped by Save the Children’s core values and principles, in always reflecting accountability and innovation to continuously improve the quality of our programs reaching children, even during difficult times.

Save the Children has been implementing Sponsorship programming that partners with local communities in improving children’s access to quality education, by providing trainings for teachers, teaching materials for classrooms and conducting a continuous dialogue with community members and parents to improve their knowledge, attitude and skills on children’s development and improving educational environments.

This past year, the Sponsorship team began programs in Summer Learning Camps (SLCs), so that children can continue their education and be engaged in learning during the summer break from school. So far, nearly 250 villages in West Showa now provide SLCs for their learners. Broadening our reach even further, some SLCs serve additional smaller neighboring villages.

A child and community elder enjoying storytelling time together in a Summer Learning Camp
A child and community elder enjoying storytelling time together in a Summer Learning Camp.

We travel on foot, walking long distances and crossing rivers, to meet community leaders, identify camp sites, select village volunteers to manage the camps and to deliver camp materials. I was one of the team leaders who went to a small rural village, to meet with local elders, community leaders and village members to discuss and identify a new SLC site.

One farmer was waiting to greet us. He led us to where the community members were already waiting for us, sitting in the shade under a big tree. After we greeted and introduced ourselves, we then discussed the SLC initiative that we hoped to start in their village. They were so happy that they blessed us and told us they would support us in any way they could. They shared they too understood the significance of keeping their children in contact with books and reading during school breaks. They were also thankful to hear that book banks, or portable libraries with reading and writing supplies, and different kinds of games would be provided for their children. They excitedly discussed the possibility of children being able to borrow storybooks to read at home.

As we finished our discussion they led us to the camp site they proposed. When looking to identify sites, we make sure that there are no natural hazards nearby like cliffs or rivers in which children could hurt themselves, as well as other hazards of town-life like stray dogs or nearby roads. As this location was in a shady and grassy field, we agreed it was a very safe place for children to learn and play.

Children excitedly gather for storytelling with one of the elders.
Children excitedly gather for storytelling with one of the elders.

We also agreed to build the tents for the camp together, and that the community members would provide wood to help construct the tents. They also said they would make wood benches for the children. Sponsorship then in turn provides the additional materials needed, like storybooks, educational games and the plastic for the tent itself, and helps train facilitators to run the camps in a child-friendly way, to help foster a love of reading in all the camps’ participants.

After a site is set up, we visit the Summer Learning Camps twice a month. I always feel happy when I’m able to do this, and see the children playing and reading at the camps. When I arrive during the elders’ storytelling time with the children, I really enjoy sitting for a moment to listen to the stories with the kids, and return back to my work station with renewed energy. I love my career and feel lucky to be part of such a dynamic team that is always turning challenges into opportunities, to create positive changes in the lives of the children our sponsors help us reach.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.