Education levels in the Afar region in Ethiopia have historically been very low, especially among girls. They are expected to help around the home, look after cattle, and be available for marriage when they are as young as 10 years old. On top of this, the costs of tuition fees, uniform, books and stationery put off many Afar families from letting girls go to school. Afar girls are also often subject to harmful traditional practices, such as genital mutilation, which reinforces their subservient role in society.
CPA’s Ethiopian partner, Voice in the Wilderness Development Organisation (VWDO), has been working in the Afar region for many years. They have opened several schools in the Afar regions and were responsible for recently opening the first high school in the Afar region with the help of the Japanese government. They are committed to encouraging the education of Afar girls not only for its educational benefit but also for the transformative impact in the lives of the girls who are able to benefit from it.
CPA has committed to partnering with VWDO to work in culturally sensitive ways with Afar communities in raising awareness of the importance of education for girls in particular and in providing Afar girls with the opportunity to receive an education.
We are aware that we need to engage in this project over a number of years and that a multi-layered approach is required. With VWDO, we have identified a number of programmes which will potentially help Afar girls go right through the school system and into university and will also provide pastoral support and help with necessary life skills.
Senior School – Lower Years
The Japanese Embassy has built a dormitory and a senior school in the Afar region to encourage education amongst Afar girls up to Year 10 (effectively GCSE level). CPA has committed to providing support for the education of 40 Afar girls at the school. Many of them are accommodated at the boarding accommodation facility where a full time support worker is based who ensures they are cared for in a safe environment, supports them in their school work, and acts as a mentor to them.
Senior School – Upper Years
On completion of year 10 the girls will be able to attend years 11 and 12 of senior school but to do this they will have to move to towns in a different tribal area. Currently there are 30 Afar girls who are receiving education in these year groups and they are based in two nearby Amharic towns. They each receive a small supplement from the Ethiopian government to help pay for some of their costs but this is insufficient for their needs and leaves the girls vulnerable. We have reports that some of the girls are resorting to prostitution in order to raise sufficient funds. Renting a house in each of the towns with a support worker and guards will help to address this issue by providing a safe environment where they are not exposed to serious danger. Funds can also be used to help with the provision of food, uniforms and educational materials.
On successful completion of senior education there is the possibility that some of the girls will be successful in attending university. Some Afar girls have previously been through the university system but it has been challenging. There is no support network currently in place for Afar girls and there have been reported cases of lecturers asking for sexual favours in return for marking assignments that the girls have handed in. As part of the project we would like to set up a contact point with student representatives in each of the universities where Afar girls attend in order to try and establish some kind of support network for them where they can report concerns and receive advice.