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
One of CPA’s key plans, to promote and facilitate education around Komame in the long term, especially for girls, is to provide six classrooms at the local senior school for grades 11 and 12, which are the pre-university years. Education at these grades has never been available in the area, meaning that pupils have had to go to school in the neighbouring Amhara region to complete their education up to grade 12, making it very difficult for them to progress.
The regional government has agreed to provide all necessary teachers and resources to operate these classrooms once they are complete. Thanks to a generous donation we have been able to complete half of the classrooms, the government has already provided teachers and materials for the start of the latest academic year, and Year 11 is up and running. We are now seeking a further £25,000 to build the other three classrooms, so that there will be sufficient space to meet the requirements for both grades 11 and 12 to be taught at the school.
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.