Hazel’s Footprints Trust has been supporting an incredible organisation, Open Way, which operates in rural Ethiopia, since 2017. We provide funding for the salaries of 9 pre-school teachers. Overall, Open Way has over 1200 students enrolled at 8 pre-schools.
Open Way schools faced some COVID-closures in 2020
We are very relieved to hear that Covid-19 does not seem to swept through the rural area where Open Way is working in Ethiopia. Any number of factors may explain this including a young demographic and a swift government response. It could also be the case that a lack of testing masked the spread of the disease, as may have relatively high mortality rates from other illnesses. However, like everywhere else, the indirect effect has been significant. All schools in the country were closed from March 2020 until the end of the academic year and (for a time) strict public transport restrictions were imposed. Despite this, rural life thankfully continued more or less normally with people having no choice other than to continue their daily activities to survive.
Positives in the crisis
Open Way continued to pay all the teachers, of course, during the school closure. There is, of course, no question of online learning in rural Ethiopia, so we were impressed to hear that the teachers had continued for some time teaching students in their local villages in small groups. The Open Way teaching team also got involved in community education.
Teachers worked to raise awareness in local villages (nearby to where they live) about the coronavirus and how to prevent its spread. As well as simple health education about hygiene, not shaking hands and social distancing, this also included teaching people how to make simple face masks. These efforts were not something that Open Way required of its teachers. It’s uplifting to hear of such a generous community response by the teachers and other staff.
While the schools remained closed, our school libraries remained open. The libraries have televisions (powered by solar energy and usually the only television in the village) and they double as community centres. They have remained open so that the community can catch up on the latest news.
Back to school
We were delighted to hear that in November, the Ethiopian government gave the go-ahead to reopen schools, finally. The classes are smaller, with children attending school in shifts to aid social distancing. A maximum of 15 children are permitted in each class, so the schools operate with classes of 15 in the morning, and swap to another 15 in the afternoons. In total, sadly that means that Open Way are currently only able to teach 750 children (1200 normally). Hazel’s Footprints would like to send all of the children and teachers all the very best as they find their way this year in uncertain times.
As mentioned, the teachers were also instrumental in passing on hygiene advice in their local communities as the pandemic loomed. The team restarted the new academic year with a hope to build on the new awareness of handwashing. They now give soap to all students at Open Way schools to be taken home. There are many easily transmittable diseases such as typhoid and typhus causing a lot of suffering in rural Ethiopia. It would be amazing if the soap and education will go towards preventing such illness as well as any coronavirus.
It’s been an incredibly hard time for children everywhere in the world, and that’s definitely been true in Ethiopia. We are so pleased to have partners such as Open Way to minimise that impact.