In Aleta Wondo for every child in school, 3 children are not. There are many hindering factors contributing to this situation. There is a basic lack of classrooms (100 children average per classroom and two shifts). The government schools cannot keep up with the population growth. Females are often kept out of school due to chores that are expected of them, such as hauling water and collecting fire wood and do not have time to study. Many children live far from town and the distance to reach school is several kilometers. There are registration fees and uniform requirements which prohibit many children from attending.
Children who are orphaned by HIV/AIDS are kept out of school, because they are stigmatized. There is a problem with retention with more than half of the students leave school before the end of the first semester exam due to personal reasons attribute to the cultural and traditional practices on top of the social and economic problems. Primary school enrollment has improved since recently to reach about 68% of all eligible children while enrollment in secondary school is one of the lowest (18%).
The primary school age population: is 5320 (2720 male, 2600 female). Out of these 2164 males attend and 1165 females attend totaling 3329. Therefore, the gap is 1991 students (556 boys and 1435 girls). The adult female literacy rate is 25%. Girls were excluded from education until recently. The fact that so few girls ever attended school is reflected by the fact that women are thirsty to read and write and fill our literacy classes. We prioritize girls in our school enrollment to help rectify the male bias.
The burgeoning youth has stretched the meager resources available to families. Now, the elders are often forgotten and left without any resources or caretakers. Social security and retirement do not exist. When village elders were asked what their priority need is, in a recent focus group discussion they answered “food.” This is very telling of the neglect of the elders, the lack of food security and social security.
Sidama seniors are more and more neglected and disrespected by their own children. Given the diminished valuing of traditions (ceremonies and celebrations) there is a huge loss of traditional wisdom. There is a lack of documentation of “community memory” for the next generation. Given the extremely young population under 15 years of age (50%), and low life expectancy (55 years), the Sidama culture is at high risk of disappearance.
During our initial feasibility study in 2007, we conducted focus group discussions with children, adults, business people, and religious leaders. Across the board, the top priority of every group was education. Ethiopians greatly value education and feel that it will lead them out of poverty.
A. Build a primary school for out-of-school children in community of Titira prioritizing OVC (orphaned and vulnerable children).
B. Establish a Women’s Education Center to teach female literacy.
C. Organize the Sidama Seniors into a tribal council to honor cultural heritage.