Thinking About Collective Action – Community Intervention for School Innovation

June 1, 2012

ethiopia_0.previewKnowledge is power in the fight to end hunger and poverty. Suda Literacy Center was constructed in 2009 through THP-Ethiopia Rural Integrated Development Program in partnership with Jaldu Epicenter community.

Currently 158 male and 132 female children are attending their formal education at Suda Literacy Center from grade one to grade four. There is one school director and four teachers, among which two of them are community employees and the rest are government employees.

THP-Ethiopia constructed the Literacy center aiming to support the informal education program for pre-school age children and adult literacy program. It has two rooms: one teaching room with capacity of 44 seats and the other room with partition for book store and teachers’ office.

THP-Ethiopia began by working to raise awareness within the community of the importance of education as a strategy to end hunger and eradicate poverty; by providing information about the role of education in development, the community was empowered to become a main agent in this intervention. THP-Ethiopia facilitated the election of a village committee to mobilize community contributions to construct the Literacy Center. THP-Ethiopia provided factory products and skilled labor, and the community participated by providing free land, unskilled labor and local construction materials like wood poles and stones. THP-Ethiopia supplied school furniture upon completed construction work.

Ato Hordofa Feyisa and Ato Tujo Ayana were among the community elected committee members and are currently working as members of Parents’ and Teachers’ joint committee. Ato Tujo gave the first plot of land for construction of Suda Literacy Center after he was compensated with farm land in other place.

After completing construction of THP-E supported Literacy Center in 2009, the committee continued in organizing and mobilizing the community to realize today’s Shabo Elementary School.

Ato Hordofa Feyisa explained how support from THP-Ethiopia made the community “open their eyes and change their minds to think development can be realized with our own capacity and we did it!” He tells the following background on this project:

“One day, Ato Megersa Feyisa came from Adaama town to visit his parents in our village [Suda]. He is a merchant and has good life there. He was born and grew up in this village. He observed the constructed literacy center and asked us how we were able to do this. We told him we did it in collaboration with THP-Ethiopia. He was surprised with what he saw. Children are able to attend Shabo School at an early age, which was unthinkable during his time and led to the challenges he himself faced to become a merchant. Ambitiously, he promised us to provide 40 corrugated iron sheets and to cover their cost of transportation for the addition of one room at Suda Literacy Center.

“Now we were so excited that we could not sleep – his support motivated us to move forward to work hard on mobilizing the community for matching contributions. We went out from our village and visited a nearby village called Sekekelo and discussed our school development plan to convert Suda Literacy Center into an elementary school. Since some children from this village already started to attend at our village school, they did not hesitate to accept our request and to join our effort. We established a joint community mobilizing committee and mobilized more materials and collected money from the community and requested that local government assign teachers. THP-Ethiopia supported with some factory products [construction materials and school furniture].

“In order to meet the facility requirements to have government assign a teacher to the school, we had to construct accommodation facilities for teachers to live in. We constructed two rooms with previously supported corrugated iron sheets from THP-E, and we also built a school pit latrine.

“We fulfilled all of the government requirements for an elementary school and completed it successfully. We gave a new name to our Suda Literacy Center and now call it Shabo Elementary School to reflect the two sub-villages [Suda village and Sekekelo village of Jaldu Epicenter’s Teso kebele].”

Ato Urgech Obsa, the school director, admired the strength of the community in comparison with his former school, where he worked for two years.

He reported that the school has 110, 73, 50 and 60 grades one, two, three and four students respectively. Grade one students are attending classes in one room, and there are not have enough rooms for all of these students, nor enough room to accommodate all of the teachers. The pit latrine is not yet covered and the school has no proper desks for our students.

Unfortunately, this school is not on the priority list to get government budget support. The community strongly desires to expand this school to the level of “Junior Secondary School,” which covers up to grade eight. The community organized a bazaar at the school to mobilize people who were born here but have since left the village and become successful in other parts of the country to help them with resources and ideas.

Ato Hordofa continues his story: “The aforementioned volunteer, Ato Megersa Feyisa, attended the event and supported us with 10,000 birr (US $550) and an additional 50 corrugated iron sheets. We then collected 4,000 birr (US $220) from the community. For 7,000 birr (US $390), we purchased 0.5 hectare of land with for school expansion and a playground. The requirements of becoming a junior secondary school are more demanding because it needs library and laboratory facilities in addition to constructing additional rooms. Therefore Shabo School is looking forward to see more support from partners who reside in and out of the country.”

Ato Tujo Ayana currently works as community employee school guard and receives 70 birr (US $4) a month for his time. His two children attend the school – his youngest is four years old. He said: “In the past we couldn’t imagine sending our children to school at such an early age. The nearest school was five kilometers away from our village and as you can see, what matters more than the distance was the hilly terrain expected to be crossed to reach the school.

“Even the older children got into difficulties, since they travel long distances and got tired, making their time at school ineffective. You can’t imagine how difficult it could be for female children. Sometimes they were exposed to sexual harassment and abduction. So we feared to send female children to school in the past.

“Now things are changed with the help of almighty God and THP-Ethiopia’s support. Even three year old children can easily walk to attend school. Our children get back home and assist us to look after plowing oxen after farm operations and also participating in other home activities.

“We want to advance our school even more and so each household agreed to contribute 200 birr (US $11) to open a grade five class next year for our current grade four children. We are also looking for our partners’ support to make our school to be more conducive to our children. The school currently has no water and our teachers have insufficient accommodation facilities and no potable water.”

Abera Abdeta is attending his study at his school in grade two. He draws the attention of viewers as he is older in his age than his classmates. Abera said: “I am 19 years old and now I am studying with grade two students. I was not lucky enough to attend at school at an early age. My father is a farmer and he doesn’t have enough land to plough, so we do not have enough food and it is difficult to cover other living expenses. Sometimes he left us for a number of months to sell his labor and get money.

“When I was growing up, rather than going to school, I was responsible for working on our plots of farmland. Through time, our family assets got better and now we have more than what we need for the survival of our family. In the meantime, THP-Ethiopia constructed this school. I found it that, since the school is closer, I could go to work on the farm as well as attend to my education since I am not wasting my time on travel.

I have a dream to grow up with knowledge to be successful in my farming practices. For what I accomplish today, I want to thank THP-E as well as my teachers.”

Suda Literacy Center has now graduated successfully to Elementary School and it is dreaming of becoming a Junior Secondary School. And for this it is calling others attention in addition to locally created partnership to make the dream reliable in near future.

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June 1, 2012