On Education

Given that I start my sixth week of work this week, it’s time for a few words on education. Because I work in the Regional Education office I have contact with people from The Regional Bureau Head through 3 layers of administration and eventually to schools. At all levels I’ve come across people committed to their jobs, working with some of the challenges and difficulties we face in the UK, but also with many local challenges we have no idea about. There are similarities and differences in the
overall systems used. Here are a few:

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  • Teachers’  progression and pay- there are six levels of teacher, to move from one level to the next, and achieve a pay rise, a teacher must meet certain conditions. They must undergo an evaluation which is conducted by a PTA committee comprising The Head, elected parents and pupils. If the right levels of satisfaction aren’t achieved, the teacher has a term in which
    to improve, then if progress isn’t made, it’s dismissal.
  • “The Green School” or how misunderstandings happen! In discussion recently someone was explaining to me about different sorts of schools and mentioned the “Green School”. My
    ears pricked up (as well as my PAWS antennae – Pangbourne and Whitchurch Sustainability
    group). He explained that this is a school where lessons take place under the trees. Lovely, I thought, before realising that this is a school with no buildings, there is no choice! Having said that, some schools also have gardens – where I’ve seen a range of produce: bananas, papaya and a favourite of ours, a spinach type vegetable caled Kosta.
  • Healthy Living – although scarce, water is provided at one of the schools during morning break. One photo shows children lining up in front of 2 huge cisterns ready for their turn – well they were lining up, until they spotted my camera and broke rank!
  • Attendance and Absenteeism – In the UK, schools have responsibility for ensuring good attendance, and must follow up absenteeism. Parents gave reasons for absence like skiing holidays or buying clothes for a wedding. It’s the same here, but the reasons are different e.g. gold panning!  It appears there are 4/5 areas in Northern Ethiopia where small amounts of gold can be found, enough to attract 10-year-old boys to go looking to supplement the family income. To make sure their education isn’t interrupted, the authority puts teachers in
    these remote areas to provide one or two hours of lessons a day.
  • Special needs – I’ve had the privilege of visiting several schools including Special schools for the deaf and blind. I probably saw the best lessons I’ve seen so far at the school for the deaf, largely because of the great use of visual aids, not always seen in mainstream lessons. There
    is also some inclusion. One mainstream school I visited has three blind pupils, one of whom was a 15 yr old girl, who as it happens is also an orphan. When she started at the school, she needed somewhere to live but was turned away from many places as landlords didn’t want to take her on, concerned that she’d be unable to pay.  The teachers then stepped in and helped her find accommodation. So a 15yr old blind orphan lives alone, fends for herself, including doing her own cooking.
  • Class size – I haven’t seen a class with fewer than 45 children and haven’t seen one with more than 60. How do you fit them in? No problem – skinny kids – no childhood obesity issues here. Behaviour – on the whole pretty good too.
  • Student participation –school councils are found here – members are elected , I was visiting on election day when all the voting boxes were out ready– see photo. Children are also involved in road crossing duty, a terrifying scene as they step out in front of anything from a donkey to a tuk tuk or 4 wheel drive.
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  1. Lesley Jones

     /  04/11/2011

    As a teacher I found these comments really interesting! How amazing about the blind girl living on her own and fending for herself. It makes you realise how incredibly priviledged we are in the West and how much we take for granted.
    Keep the blogs coming , they are a great insight into your new lives.

  2. Martin

     /  06/11/2011

    Another really interesting blog. Keep it up and look after Mekelle for me!!! Martin

  3. Mike

     /  02/04/2012

    Water is precious to life but is taken fro granted in UK. I hope something can be learnt on the recent ban in the UK

  4. Mike, Aldermaston (Cleaner)

     /  02/04/2012

    Although, Africa is poor there are still some good resources there for the handicapped children

    • Hello Mike
      Am pleased that you have found and are following our blog. I wonder how Ethiopia compares with Ghana! You are so right about the water situation, with most people who live out of towns and some in towns having to carry water to their houses. Really hard work. We’ve just started with a bit of rain here after 6 months – a good sign. Best Wishes


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