Restoring education, restoring hope
“I feel sad to see my school damaged like this,” says 12-year-old Kuresha Yusuf. “We had proper classrooms and desks. But now we are attending class here [under the tree].”
Kuresha’s school, Hagajin Libah, in Tuliguled woreda (district) Somali region of Ethiopia, was attacked when inter-communal conflict erupted in the adjacent woredas of Oromia and Somali regions two years ago. All of the six classrooms were badly damaged.
“We did a back-to-school campaign in September,” says Dheg Abadir Muhamed, the director of the school. “But when the students came, we had no alternative but to teach them under the trees.”
Hagajin Libah, which had 420 students before the conflict, now only has 150 students sitting on stone stools and facing a blackboard mounted to a cactus tree.
Similarly, in Chinaksen woreda, Oromia region, the old structure of Chachale Primary School’s six-classroom block is reduced to ruins. Luckily, the newly built two-classroom block survived the attack after the military intervened in the area.
Since September last year, efforts were made by the local administration, community members and the education bureau to bring students back to school. Yet, with only two classrooms, four teachers and limited supplies, they are only able to enroll students from grades 1- 4. Students in grades 5-8, like 14-year-old Rawda Mohammed, have no place and they stay at home to support their families.
“Some of my friends are married because they are not able to continue their education,” says Rawda. “I still hope to continue my education when our classrooms are reconstructed.”
The immediate need to restore education in Chachale and Hagajin Libah goes beyond the physical work of reconstruction.
Although calm has been restored in many conflict-affected areas, children who have been thought violence are experiencing stress and struggling with learning. Their teachers, therefore, need psychosocial training to understand how to deal with the psychological and social impact of conflict in children.
Ethiopia has an estimated 1.4 million displaced, returnee, and refugee children, mostly resulting from conflicts and natural disasters. One million of these children are out of school; without education opportunities which is their best hope for a better future.
Besides, a lack of trained teachers, unsuitable educational facilities, insufficient school-feeding and inadequate clean water in schools make the learning process challenging.
Though significant resources are needed to rebuild the education system in crisis-affected parts of Ethiopia, funding for education in emergencies is low compared with other sectors. For instance, the education component of the 2019 humanitarian response plan which required a total of US$ 45 million was only 12 per cent funded.
The good news is a three-year US$165 million Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) recently launched by Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund for education in emergencies, fills the gap. The programme is set to support the education of 746,000 children affected by crises in Ethiopia. So far, US$ 27 million has been secured while efforts are underway to mobilize the remaining gap. Key interventions of the MYRP include the reconstruction and rehabilitation of damaged schools, provision of teaching and learning materials, school feeding and capacity building of teachers and local education authorities. Psychosocial support to teachers and students is also included.
The Ministry of Education is leading the programme in coordination with the Regional Education Bureaus in the worst affected woredas such as Chinaksen and Tuliguled. UNICEF and Save the Children are grantees to the programme, with the role of identifying partners who deliver the programme results on the ground.
While Kuresha’s dream is to become a teacher, Rawda, on the other hand, wants to be a nurse. For crisis-affected children like them, education provides the strength and tools they need to build a brighter future for themselves and their community. Restoring their education is restoring their hopes.
IDPs and Returnees: IOM, 2019, Displacement Tracking Matrix, October and IOM, Village Assessment Survey, October 2019
Refugees: MOE, 2019, Annual Statistical Abstract.