I hope this email finds you well. This time of year is a busy one for us as children return to school. Our team has been busy distributing uniforms and school materials to children as the new term begins and starting our new school construction projects as rainy season comes to an end.
In the UK, we have experienced a return to normality with two major running events – the London Marathon and Royal Parks Half Marathon – going ahead as planned. We were there to cheer on our runners who together raised over £13,000!
In Ethiopia, the situation remains difficult and conflict continues in the north of the country. You can read below to see how it is affecting our projects and the communities we support.
Thank you as always for your support!
Caroline Walker Chief Executive
The Situation in Ethiopia
Conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has been ongoing in north Ethiopia since November last year. Starting in the Tigray region, the conflict spread to areas of the Amhara region in July. Our team in Ethiopia remain resilient in difficult circumstances and we hope a peaceful resolution may be achieved as soon as possible. Some of our sponsored families have been displaced due to conflict in their areas and we are doing our utmost to maintain contact and continue support for those who will need it now more than ever.
In addition to the inflation due to the coronavirus lockdown, the conflict is now compounding problems, and costs have spiralled.
The cost of the staple grain, teff, has increased by 64% and cooking oil has gone up by 94%, so families that were already struggling are now finding it impossible to make ends meet.
If you would like to make a donation to support your sponsored family, or any family, to cope with food price increases, you can do so today and we will ensure your donation goes directly to them.
This October, we celebrated the start of the new academic year at Gendit School. Over the last two years, we have been working with the school director and teachers to improve the quality of lessons for local children: training teachers and building new facilities. The project, run in partnership with Building Futures Ethiopia, aims to develop the school into a model rural primary.
Last year we refurbished four classrooms, making structural repairs and replacing the furniture. Alongside this, we installed a new water station and built a fence to keep the school compound safe and enable income generating activities on the grounds.
227 pupils were enrolled
87% of pupils passed their end of year exams
49% scored above 'good' or above in their exams
The number of girls achieving ‘good’ or above went up by 104% creating gender parity
This year the school will be able to teach Grade 5, enabling local children to remain in education for the second cycle of primary education for the first time. We will build a new block providing a classroom, a library and director’s office. At the same time, we will continue working with staff to improve the standard of teaching at the school, using a new teacher training framework and a mentoring system for teachers.
A ceremony was held in October to reward the teachers and students for the progress so far and set ambitions for the next year. It was a wonderful day with more than 100 community members attending.
Despite some unique challenges faced by schools, 2021 saw our most successful year training teachers to use the phonics approach. We worked with 37 schools in four cities in the region: Gondar, Dessie, Debre Tabor and Debre Markos. Teachers are taught the 42 sounds of English, which include the 26 alphabet sounds plus sounds such as ‘ch’ ‘sh’ ‘ee’ and ‘ay’, and use songs and activities to get children to sound out words themselves.
By the end of the year, students across the region taught by trained teachers were able to read 22 words in a standard test compared to just 2 in a control school. We were also able to expand our work with trainee teachers, working with a group in the College of Teacher Education in Debre Tabor.
Working across four cities was a new experience for our project manager, Zemene, who led the project, overseeing fieldworkers in each city and delivering training for both in-service and trainee teachers. He was pleased to visit schools and see teachers and children using their new skills in the classroom. “It was truly impressive to see children calling out to their teacher, ‘teacher, teacher’ to get the chance to write words on the blackboard and say each letter sound”.
In 2021-22, we will expand the project further, working with 12 schools and 24 teachers in the Oromia region and working with even more Colleges of Teacher Education in Amhara.
Over the past year we are pleased to have made a number of changes to our sponsorship programme which will improve reporting and the support we’re able to provide to students and their families. 77% of our students passed their end of year exams last year and are moving up to the next grade.
In April we were pleased to increase the amount of your sponsorship going directly to families thanks to a favourable change in the exchange rate.
This year, we have switched to a new plan for sponsorship reports with reporting organised according to location so that coordinators can conduct all home visits in the same area at the same time. We hope to see more reports going to sponsors each month.
In October we held a forum in Gondar bringing together over 200 parents and students to share information about changes to the programme and give them an opportunity to feed back. At this years’ meeting we spoke about child marriage and the risk of early pregnancy; a psychosocial trainer provided information about positive parenting skills; and the children from the Kindu Klub put on a short play which led to an outbreak of spontaneous dancing from the parents! It was a pleasure to see that the forum could provide a brief respite and moment of enjoyment at what is a stressful time for many families.
This October we were very happy to be able to participate in some of the live running events that had been postponed from last year. We were delighted that 15 runners chose to support our work by participating in the Royal Parks Half Marathon or London Marathon raising funds.
Totally they raised over £13,400 which will make a huge difference to us this year and we are so thankful to everyone who took part.
If you would like to run a half marathon next October in support of our work, the Royal Parks route is a beautiful, flat run that is perfect for your first half marathon or achieving a PB. Get in touch now to register your interest.