Campaign aims to enroll nearly 3 million children out of school by 2015
Student facilitator and 7th grade student Senait Berhane (3rd from right) is pictured with 4 and 5-year olds in Atsbi district, Tigray region, Ethiopia. After learning letters and numbers during Berhane’s summer break, the five children are now ready to enter school thanks to a UNICEF-supported Child-to-Child Programme (©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Negash)
16 September 2013: The Ministry of Education of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia today launched a massive nationwide awareness campaign on going back to school and called on parents, communities and local leaders to bring their children to school.
The awareness campaign, which is being kick-started this week, as schools open across the country, is a drive that seeks to increase awareness of parents on the importance of education and support Ethiopia to meet its Millennium Development Goals on universal access.
"Over the last two decades Ethiopia’s Gross Enrollment Rate has soared, government has allocated a huge budget and admirable results have been achieved,” said His Excellency Ato Shiferaw Shugutie the Federal Minister of Education “Communities have owned education activities and increased the numbers of children coming to school, this campaign is a push to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Ethiopia has steadily increased the number of children in school in the last two decades from as low as 2 million in the 1990’s to over 22 million in 2012, trebling its Gross Enrollment Rates from as low as 32 per cent in 1990s to 95 in 2012. With the current Net Enrollment Rate of 86 %, Ethiopia is on track to meet MDG 2.
Mama’s tune- young children get ready for formal school through music
However, current data from the just completed Study on the Situation of Out of School Children in Ethiopia shows that 3 million children remain out of school, while enrollment rates reveal marked regional disparities with regions like Afar recording enrollments as low as 32%. Key barriers in the way of the country’s drive towards access to universal primary education include costs around schooling, lack of basic facilities and quality education. These are often compounded by negative and harmful traditional practices, like early marriage and the preference for boys over girls, which put education out of reach for many girls.
The media campaign seeks to mobilize communities, national leaders and international development partners to bring and keep Ethiopia’s children in school.
"Education remains the engine to drive Ethiopia’s long-term economic development prospects and it is clear that against all odd parents across this vast nation know this and are committed to bringing their children to school," said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia " However, if we are to build healthier families, a better economy and a prosperous Ethiopia, families should educate more girls to a higher level."
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According to latest UN estimates, MDG4 Target Achieved 3 Years Ahead of Time
Ethiopian Minister of health Dr. Keseteberhan Admassu (second from left) holds up the sign declaring Ethiopia has met the Millennium Development Goal 4, reducing under 5 morality by two thirds, at a press conference in Addis Ababa on Friday. Angela Spilsbury of DFID (1st from left); Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia (3rd from left); and Pierre Mpele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia look on (Photo- ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose)
Addis Ababa, 13 September 2013 - The Ministry of Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and UNICEF announced today that Ethiopia has reduced its under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2012- the required reduction for meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) on child survival. In 1990, the under 5 mortality rate was one of the highest in the world at 204/1,000 live births; by 2012, this rate had been slashed to 68/1,000 live births.
The announcement follows the release of the latest global and country data from the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) and the annual report of the Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed Initiative, co-chaired by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States. Globally, the annual number of deaths among children under 5 fell, from an estimated 12.6 million in 1990, to 6.6 million in 2012. Over the past 22 years, the world saved around ninety million children’s lives that may otherwise have been lost. Ethiopia has made a significant contribution to this success- each year around 235,000 more children survive to their fifth birthday than was the case 20 years ago in the country.
This achievement was driven by political commitment, advances in science and technology, and improvements in health, nutrition and family planning services, particularly in the rural areas. Indeed, Ethiopia has, in many ways, been at the forefront when it comes to ensuring basic services for women and children in the country. In particular, by bringing basic health services to the doorstep of the rural population, the Health Extension Programme has made a significant contribution. Since 2003, more than 38,000 Government salaried Health Extension Workers, the majority of them young women, have been deployed to over 15,000 health posts right across the country. “Achieving ambitious targets in the social sectors has been a central pillar of the Government’s Growth and Transformation Plan,” said Dr Kesetebirhan Admasu, the Federal Minister of Health. “It is now clear that the key policy choices that we made in the health sector were the right ones.”
The announcement also carries broader significance since Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa and plays a critical leadership role on the continent through its current chairmanship of the African Union and its role in many other regional political and development fora. It also comes at a time when UNICEF and other development partners around the world are focused on accelerating progress in the final 1000 days until the MDG deadline. “In many ways the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia has become a powerful global symbol of what can be achieved in resource-constrained environments, and has given many international partners renewed faith in the enterprise of development,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “Ethiopia has become the child survival benchmark for other countries, implicitly challenging them to do more for their own children.”
Ethiopia needs more than 18,000 water professionals and technicians to implement the world’s largest sector-wide WASH Programme. Learn why you should be one of them!
By Dr. Samuel Godfrey, UNICEF Ethiopia Chief of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
Wubalem Asmamaw, 17, makes the short 20min journey to fetch water for her family in Machakel district, Amhara region, northern Ethiopia (©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose)
Meet Wubalem Asmamaw, a 17-year old girl who lives in Machakel district of the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia. Five years ago and like millions of girls her age or younger up and down the country, Wubalem used to spend more than three hours a day travelling to and from a nearby dirty river just to fetch water for her family. She would often run late or even miss her classes at the nearby elementary school not only to spend the day looking for water, but also to stay home and care for ill parents, siblings, and/or neighbors. Her parents, who make a living from subsistence farming in the lush teff and wheat growing fields of West Gojjam, spent their hard-earned income on buying medicine.
For those years at least, Wubalem lived a life of fear. Fear that the lush, but open fields on her way back from the river might unleash a thug who might abduct and force her to marriage at the age of 12. Fear that she would be thrown out of school for skipping classes. Fear that one of her parents or siblings might fall sick again from diarrhea and miss many days of work in the field. And most important of all, Wubalem feared that her dreams of finishing high school and then studying to become a doctor might end prematurely.
When I met Wubalem two months ago at a recently-rehabilitated water point in her village, there was no fear in her eyes. Thanks to a water point that was built by the support from the European Union and UNICEF, Wubalem’s commute to fetch water has been reduced to just 20 minutes. Instead of pessimistic predictions about her future, Wubalem talks about the new things she learned in her biology classes and why no one in her family or her neighborhood has fallen ill from diarrhea in the last three years. Why? The water they now drink every day is not only safe, but is enough to wash hands before and after meals and keep the family toilet clean at all times. After scoring top grades in her class early this year, Wubalem is also already looking forward to the last two years of high school not with fear, but with the passion of a teenager who loves school!
Sounds like a fairytale, right? This story is what we in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector work for and use to remind ourselves why we do what we do. Our job is not just about constructing and/or helping rehabilitate urban and rural water and sanitation facilities in every village and district, but also see millions of empowered young boys and girls ready to continue Ethiopia’s hopes of becoming a middle income country by 2030. We envision a country of many Wubalems- healthy, educated, and economically-empowered citizens ready to lift millions of their compatriots out of poverty.
This week, we take our current reality closer to our vision when Ethiopia launches the world’s largest Water and Sanitation (WASH) Sector Wide Approach (SWAP). Termed ONE WASH and supported by UNICEF, the international donor lead for WASH in Ethiopia; this huge undertaking terms ONE WASH National Programme (OWNP) brings together four national ministries- Water and Energy (MWE), Health (FMOH), Education (MOE), and Finance and Economic Development (MoFed) - in an innovative approach designed to meet Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation (GTP) and universal access ambitions.
But what does this really mean?
Like UNICEF, there are many development partners and stakeholders which work in WASH. From the smallest Civil Society Organization (CSO) which collects enough money to build a small hand pump to the largest multilateral and development partners like UNICEF, the World Bank, DFID, African Development Bank (ADB), Government of Finland, JICA, and the European Union which fund million-birr community water schemes, every organization works in WASH, but in their own different ways. They have different priorities, different monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, different reporting requirements, and varying amounts of funding and financial reporting systems.
With ONE WASH, this will be no more. As the experience of countries like Mozambique where I previous worked as Chief of WASH for UNICEF suggests, combining efforts accelerates efforts to meet both GTP and the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG 7) which is providing universal access to water and sanitation. It also helps reduce duplication of funding, efforts, and priorities. With ONE WASH, all stakeholders work together to produce one plan, all contributing to a consolidated WASH account at federal, and producing one report.
And it does not stop there!
Successfully implementing ONE WASH requires over 18,000 additional skilled personnel of all types across the country. More contractors, water technicians, drilling companies, and higher education programmes with larger intake are all needed in the next 5-10 years. Based on my experience in other countries, I see the WASH sector personnel in Ethiopia becoming a bit like what is currently happening to X-ray technicians at the moment- there simply aren’t enough of them! And those who currently work as X-ray technicians are increasingly demanding higher wages and flexible working hours so that they can take on additional part-time work.
Ethiopia needs more contractors with well-trained and sufficient workforce of technicians, engineers, and office staff to meet its lofty water and sanitation goals. It needs more students in universities tackling subjects like Water Engineering, Water Technology, Sanitation Engineering, and others. Given the demand and forseeable shortage of professionals, I see these fields competing and perhaps winning the battle to attract talented students straight of high school. And this is not just about installing water schemes in remote parts of the country. This affects everyone from your small town favorite plumber to the ambitious school or hotel that uses solar energy to power its water pump.