Update on Open Way Pre-Schools in Ethiopia

In November 2017, Hazel’s Footprints agreed a grant of £3,600 for Open Way, a charity which supports pre-school education in rural Ethiopia.  The grant funds the  2018 running costs, including salaries, of 9 pre-school classes. One year on, we are very pleased to share an update on how well they’ve been getting on. The Trustees of Hazel’s Footprints are very impressed so far. Consequently, we have decided to that Open Way will receive funding for the same 9 classes again in 2019.  

Main Shigesho school building in Ethiopia

How the grant is being used

Open Way operates eight pre-schools in rural Ethiopia. These schools are now well through the autumn term of the 2018/2019 academic year. Between the schools, a total of 26 classes are in operation.  Of these, nine classes are currently being funded thanks to the generous supporters of Hazel’s Footprints Trust.  This grant has maintained these classes since January 2018 and will do so until the end of 2018.

The Open Way pre-schools run Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 11:00 am and 1:00  to 3:30p.m. and keep to the normal school term and school year dates.  The Open Way schools provide a completely free pre-school education covering the subjects recommended by the ministry of education:

  • Amharic (National language of Ethiopia)
  • Sidaminya (mother tongue)
  • English
  • Numeracy
  • Environment (quite a wide-ranging subject including citizenship, and health).
Class in progress at pre-schools in rural Ethiopia

A class in progress

Why the grant was needed

Open Way operates in a very disadvantaged area of Ethiopia. Here, impoverished subsistence farmers and daily labourers still face the deepest kind of poverty with all its connected factors. This includes malnutrition, lack of access to health care, and of course, illiteracy and lack of access to education. On top this extreme poverty, all Open Way pre-schools (except one) are in a region populated by potters, one of the lowest social castes in Ethiopia along with weavers and tanners. Discrimination and prejudice add to their poverty.

The result is that virtually all poor rural children remain at home in their early years or are sent away to extended family members. In the latter case, an inability to provide adequately for children leads to a common practice of sending children to relatives in towns to be looked after. However, this  often comes with an expectation that the child supports the extended family with domestic work. Empowerment with education is therefore very badly needed in this area of Ethiopia.

Open Way is a small, British charity run by some incredible Trustees who are putting their heart and soul into its work.  With extremely limited resources, the charity has already achieved an inspiring amount.

Student progress

We know that most of the Open Way students continue in education after a year at the pre-schools – it is difficult to ascertain an exact figure. Open Way’s pre-schools are doing really well in terms of encouraging students to continue on to government primary schools (about 60% last year). Even more impressive is that Open Way’s students are frequently propelled straight into grade two. This is all thanks to the quality of Open Way’s pre-school education.  The chance they have had really is like a springboard! We truly hope that it will eventually prove to be a springboard out of extreme poverty.  Younger students can remain at our pre-schools for a further year or until they are ready to move on.

Open Way student receiving her certificate

Open Way student receiving her certificate

Support and Training for Teachers

The pre-school teachers receive training twice a year: at the end of the summer term and at Christmas. This training is carried out by Mulu who directs Open Way’s work in Ethiopia and is a former teacher herself.  New teachers have the opportunity to pair up with experienced teachers for additional training and hand-over.

Teacher training at Open Way

Teacher training session

Many of the Open Way teachers receive offers of government training on the back of the experience they have at these schools. Also, many move on quickly to become employed at government schools.  Open Way celebrates these achievements as they enrich the community and create more vacancies for more local graduates to become teachers with Open Way.

The Open Way approach

The land for most pre-schools has donated been donated by the local community. This local ownership continues to the management of the schools through a locally elected committee.  Each committee includes an active parent and a teacher as well as at least one village elder. Each school has a senior teacher. In addition, Open Way also has a supervisor responsible for overseeing the schools.

Open Way’s Ethiopian director Mulu (a former teacher herself) oversees the project and delivers training too. She is an incredible person and has been the driving force “on the ground” in Open Way.

Open Way schools have also been a talking point in the district government offices. The teachers in the schools earn considerably less and are less qualified than government teachers, yet the children progress more. As a result, the local education bureau has given awards to some of the Open Way teachers. They have also offered many the opportunity for formal teacher training and further opportunity.

This project is incredibly inexpensive for what it provides.  Each class costs around £400 per year to run.  That seems unbelievable, and yet it is true.  It’s party because Open Way can’t pay high salaries to its teachers. However, it is also appropriate that the salaries sit a little under what a trained teacher could obtain in a government school.

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