The educational system in Ethiopia starts with eight years of primary school, followed by secondary school. High school graduates can attend post-secondary education, which, like secondary education, is delivered in English.
For most youth, access to secondary school or technical training, if available at all, is likely more than 50 kilometres away. This means they must pay for accommodation and upkeep, an impossibility for parents who are struggling to survive.
The harsh truth is that only boys and girls in urban areas have higher chances of attaining an educational degree. One reason is that poor tribes in rural areas prioritize working over studying since their ultimate goal is survival.
One of the biggest obstacles to acquiring education is access to clean water. This specifically affects Ethiopian girls in rural areas, as girls are primarily responsible for collecting water. They often need to spend a large part of their waking hours, sometimes up to 6 hours a day, walking long distances to collect the water necessary for their own and their family’s survival. This, combined with gender inequality and the fact that the majority of household or domestic chores fall into the hands of mothers and their female children, has resulted in a lower literacy rate for women, with only around 47% of women aged between 15 and 24 capable of reading and writing.
Another obstacle to acquiring education in Ethiopia is the distance from home to school. Many children need to walk more than 3 hours to reach school. This is not possible for a lot of children, especially those who are suffering from illness or malnutrition, have a disability, or have household chores that they need to attend to every day. The children, especially females, are also prone to facing violence during the long journey to school and back home.
Lack of educational facilities is another obstacle. Classrooms may be overcrowded or at risk of falling apart. Sometimes there isn’t even a school and the children have to study outside.
Poor people in rural areas prioritize working over studying since their ultimate goal is survival.
The numbers of young people attending elementary and secondary schools are increasing but most will not continue their post-secondary education. They stay at home, jobless and without hope. This is a national problem and it is very significant in some areas, such as Seka Chekorsa Woreda, where just 20% the secondary school students have the chance to continue their education. Without the skills and knowledge to participate in government or business or to create their own employment opportunities, the rest become dependent on their families.
The government is working on this problem but it needs help from organizations like ours. Working together, we can help ensure that children and youth have access to educational opportunities that will allow them to contribute economically to their families, communities, and country, breaking the cycle of destitution forever.