Tsadkan: the pre-school teacher who makes toys for children

Tigray region, Ethiopia

By Demissew Bizuwerk
Tsadkan Demissie, a mother of two, have been teaching students in ‘O’ class in Mequat primary school for almost for a decade.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/MulugetaAyene

04 October 2019

Quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s journey: every stage of an education that follows relies on its success. Yet, nearly half of all pre-primary-age children around the world miss this chance.

In Ethiopia, pre-primary education has only recently started to pick up, with enrolment levels increasing from less than 2 per cent in 2000 to over 45 per cent in 2017. More children are now accessing pre-primary education through a one year programme called ‘O’ class. Along with building political commitment and increasing investments to sustain access, Ethiopia needs more pre-primary teachers to reach  its ever-increasing young generation which is ready to learn.    

On this World Teachers Day, we celebrate Tsadkan Demissie, a dedicated pre-school teacher who finds her own creative ways to teach six-year-old children in the rural village of Mequat, Tigray Region, Ethiopia.

When Tsadkan started her first day of work at Mequat Primary School eight years ago, the ‘O’ class was untidy, dark and there were no toys for the children to play with. She  decided to change everything.

‘O’ class students lined up in front of their class in Mequat Primary School in Kilete Awelalo woreda, Tigray region, Ethiopia. These six year olds learn through songs and plays as they begin their education journey. Quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s future: every stage of education that follows relies on its success. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2019/Mulugeta Ayene
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
When Tsadkan started her first day of work at Mequat Primary School eight years ago, the ‘O’ class was untidy, dark and there were no toys for the children to play with. She  decided to change everything.
Tsadkan washes the face of six-year-old Amlakawit. It may not be her responsibility but Tsadkan’s love for children is seen through her everyday interaction with her students.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Tsadkan washes the face of six-year-old Amlakawit. It may not be her responsibility but Tsadkan’s love for children is seen through her everyday interaction with her students.
While ‘O’ class students are busy writing numbers and letters on their tiny lap boards, Tsadkan checks on their progress. She also encourages each student to read what they have written standing in front of the class.  “We are about to end class for the year and I am assessing their skills,” says Tsadkan “This is very important for the little ones.  When they join grade 1 next year, they will be confident.”
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
While ‘O’ class students are busy writing numbers and letters on their tiny lap boards, Tsadkan checks on their progress. She also encourages each student to read what they have written standing in front of the class. “We are about to end class for the year and I am assessing their skills,” says Tsadkan “This is very important for the little ones. When they join grade 1 next year, they will be confident.”
Mequat Primary School ‘O’ class is now equipped with an early childhood education kit, such as toys, which is provided by UNICEF. UNICEF also supports the Government of Ethiopia with training ‘O’ class teachers, including Tsadkan, on play-based teaching approaches.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Mequat Primary School ‘O’ class is now equipped with an early childhood education kit, such as toys, which is provided by UNICEF. UNICEF also supports the Government of Ethiopia with training ‘O’ class teachers, including Tsadkan, on play-based teaching approaches.
Mequat Primary School ‘O’ class is now equipped with an early childhood education kit, such as toys, which is provided by UNICEF. UNICEF also supports the Government of Ethiopia with training ‘O’ class teachers, including Tsadkan, on play-based teaching approaches.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Mequat Primary School ‘O’ class is now equipped with an early childhood education kit, such as toys, which is provided by UNICEF. UNICEF also supports the Government of Ethiopia with training ‘O’ class teachers, including Tsadkan, on play-based teaching approaches.
Tsadka sprinkles water before she brooms the doorsteps of her ‘O’ class. She believes that children need a clean and safe environment to learn and play in.  Apart from teaching children about personal hygiene, Tsadkan also tells her students not to play with sharp and rusty objects which are not safe.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Tsadka sprinkles water before she brooms the doorsteps of her ‘O’ class. She believes that children need a clean and safe environment to learn and play in. Apart from teaching children about personal hygiene, Tsadkan also tells her students not to play with sharp and rusty objects which are not safe.
Kisanet Hailay, 6, smiles after she gets her face washed by Tsadkan. “We’ll look clean and pretty when we wash our face,” says Kisanet. She loves to play the puzzle game with her friends.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Kisanet Hailay, 6, smiles after she gets her face washed by Tsadkan. “We’ll look clean and pretty when we wash our face,” says Kisanet. She loves to play the puzzle game with her friends.
Tsadkan leads her students to an outdoor play in the school compound.  Under a giant fig tree, she plays games with the children that involve role-playing.  The games are structured to lead to active learning and help the children develop communication, analytic as well as decision-making skills.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Tsadkan leads her students to an outdoor play in the school compound. Under a giant fig tree, she plays games with the children that involve role-playing. The games are structured to lead to active learning and help the children develop communication, analytic as well as decision-making skills.
“I just don’t let them out and play by themselves. I play with them,” says Tsadkan while she helps her students stand in a circle and get ready for the next game.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
“I just don’t let them out and play by themselves. I play with them,” says Tsadkan while she helps her students stand in a circle and get ready for the next game.
Play is every child’s right; it brings a smile on their faces. Early childhood education in its best form gives opportunities for children to learn through playing. It brings their ideas to life, builds relationships and broadens their world.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Play is every child’s right; it brings a smile on their faces. Early childhood education in its best form gives opportunities for children to learn through playing. It brings their ideas to life, builds relationships and broadens their world.
Abel Chane, 6, is happy to show his writing skills to the class. Abel will be in grade 1 next year acquiring critical educational and social skills which will help him succeed further.  Despite the proven and lifelong benefits, more than 175 million children – nearly half of all pre-primary-age children globally – are not enrolled in pre-primary education. In low-income countries, the picture is bleaker, with only 1 in 5 young children enrolled.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Abel Chane, 6, is happy to show his writing skills to the class. Abel will be in grade 1 next year acquiring critical educational and social skills which will help him succeed further. Despite the proven and lifelong benefits, more than 175 million children – nearly half of all pre-primary-age children globally – are not enrolled in pre-primary education. In low-income countries, the picture is bleaker, with only 1 in 5 young children enrolled.
 Tsadkan’s students will be in grade 1 next academic year.  They are fortunate to take an important step in their lives by being enrolled in a one-year pre-primary education programme. Their foundation for life-long success is laid by their dedicated teacher who is always passionate about their learning and progress.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Tsadkan’s students will be in grade 1 next academic year. They are fortunate to take an important step in their lives by being enrolled in a one-year pre-primary education programme. Their foundation for life-long success is laid by their dedicated teacher who is always passionate about their learning and progress.
Milkawit Getnet (R) and her friend Kidisan Geretsadkan (L) were once Tsadkan’s students. Now they are in grade 7. “She is a great teacher. I still remember the paper birds she made to teach us about numbers. I still love maths and I want to be a maths teacher,” says 12-year-old Milkawit.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Ayene
Milkawit Getnet (R) and her friend Kidisan Geretsadkan (L) were once Tsadkan’s students. Now they are in grade 7.

“She is a great teacher. I still remember the paper birds she made to teach us about numbers. I still love maths and I want to be a maths teacher,” says 12-year-old Milkawit. 

UNICEF calls on governments to increase their domestic budget allocation to pre-primary education. Donors are also urged to allocate at least 10% of education aid to pre-primary education, including in humanitarian crises, to catalyze and complement public resources.