Helping girls stay in school in Ethiopia

As a young girl, Lominesh Gelano, 18, had never seen the inside of a classroom. But although she was born into a family that could not afford the costs of education, she did not stop dreaming of school. The youngest of six siblings, Lominesh was raised in Kochere Woreda, where she spent her days washing clothes and dishes, making coffee, and chopping wood, leaving her home only to collect water.

Then, her fortunes changed, when community advocates supported by People in Need (PIN) stopped by to convince her family to make school a priority.

The messengers were part of the CHANGE - Improving Access to Education in Ethiopia for Most Marginalized Girls, which aims to increase access to education for out of school girls in Ethiopia. It improves their life chances by establishing alternative, basic education and integrated, functional adult education. Funded by UK aid from the UK government, the programme is implemented across four regions of Ethiopia: Amhara, Afar, Oromia, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).

The project is led by People in Need (PIN), implemented with partners from Alliance2015Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe, Helvetas, and the Italian Association for Aid to Children (CIAI).

Overcoming challenges to stay in school

Lominesh took the opportunity provided by the project to register at her local Kebele to begin her studies. At first she attended class diligently. Then, two months later, she got married and her studies suffered. Mesele, her instructor, says: “I classify my students in three categories; high, medium, and low performers. Lominesh is without a doubt one of the high-performing students. She is very active in class and often enjoys presenting what she has learned, so you could imagine my shock when I heard from her classmates that she had quit school to get married.”

Determined to convince Lominesh to stay in school, Mesele, together with the project’s community messengers, travelled to her home, where they also spoke with her husband. “The messenger explained to both of them how education and marriage was important and that it was possible to have one without having to sacrifice the other,” says Mesele.

After much convincing, Lominesh was able to resume her studies. She says: “I have always wanted to go to school and I don’t plan on stopping now. I have shared my interests with my husband, and we have agreed to continue with my education and not have children for the next five years.”

Her husband adds: “If she wants to continue with her education, then I won’t stop her. Traditionally, right after marriage, women are not supposed to leave the house for the first six months. But if going to school makes her happy, then I am also happy.”

Lominesh returned to school and when asked about her feelings on being back in the classroom, she smiled and noted: “I really enjoy school and now that I got this opportunity, I don’t want to let it go. I want to keep learning so I can become a computer specialist one day.” There are five other married girls in her class, and they have also continued to attend school.

The CHANGE project is expected to reach 31,000 out-of-school girls between the ages of 10 and 19 nationwide, with 8,500 of them in SNNPR. Currently, the project is working with its first learning cohort of 5,500 girls in the four regions, 2,200 of them in SNNPR.

Author: Melikte Tadesse, PIN Ethiopia Communication Officer