Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Cluster programme has gotten our funding back, although the direction of the college is still not decided. This happened quite suddenly, just before I had to go to Addis for a cluster meeting. So I’ve been really busy since then catching up on the workshops that had been postponed, as well as doing school visits and an action research project with some of the teachers and writing funding reports.

I spoke to the Regional Education Director. Apparently there were a lot of teachers from Tigray region working in other parts of the country, and during the upheavals after the election a year and a half ago there were threats against them. There was doubt about the fairness of the election. Since the government is mainly Tigrayan, there was some negative feeling towards Tigrayans. Many people fled back to Tigray region, creating a surplus of teachers.

So no new students have been admitted to any of the teachers’ colleges in Tigray and a commission has finally been launched to explore what should be done with each of the teachers’ colleges. To me, it seems a little short-sighted to shut them down, but we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, whether or not I can stay in Adwa for a second year depends on this decision, which has been two weeks away ever since I arrived in October.

Although education is improving in the country as a whole, much of this progress is led by improvements in Tigray, Amhara, Oromiya and even SNNPR regions, where probably the majority of children get some education.

But in the so-called “emerging” regions of Afar, Somali, Beneshangul-Gumuz and Gambella, around 30% - sometimes less - of school-age children are attending school. Partly this is because people live a nomadic lifestyle that makes regular education difficult. In the south. Last year’s continuing famine has meant that many people have been forced to move, and schools have been shut down. In Somali region, there are security issues. In Gambella, near the border with Sudan, there has been ongoing conflict, which I think is starting to improve. VSO (and many other aid organizations) doesn’t operate in Afar, Somali or Gambella. In some ways this makes sense, because international volunteers and workers expect a degree of security and pre-existing infrastructure, yet it’s disturbing to think that the areas where the need is greatest are not getting the same attention as places like Tigray. At the same time, a nomadic culture is so different from that in which the traditional education system works that it is a huge challenge to implement an effective education system that works with the society and doesn’t destroy what is positive about that culture. There are some informal education programmes whereby teachers move along with everyone else.

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I know it's been quite some time since my last blog. My apologies.

Part of the reason for my hesitation is that in practice I have been sharing my personal reflections on all that is right and wrong about Ethiopia, and to a lesser degree about the personal lives of some of my associates. I wonder whether a public forum such as this blog is an appropriate venue, especially when many of those views seem to be changing constantly. Whenever I start to write something I find myself second-guessing it.

I'm open to the thoughts of my readers on this issue.