Over the past six years, the Improving productivity and market success (IPMS) project has touched the lives of many Ethiopians at different levels, in different ways and times. For some, it was a stepping stone to the next level in life, or a means to find a purpose, or a way to achieve the greatest goal in life – tangible/intangible. For others it was a chance to contribute to the beginning of a brighter future of rural children.
On one sunny day in 2007, Kebede Assefa of IPMS, set foot in Arbisi of Bure woreda, one of the pilot learning woredas of IPMS project in Amhara region. Arbisi is about 12kms from the town of Bure, in west Gojam zone (400kms from Addis Ababa).
While Assefa’s colleagues were busy with farmers and other value chain actors, Assefa noticed many young children in the beautiful fields of Arbisi. He asked what they were doing there all day long and was shocked by the answer he got “we herd cattle and sheep, care for our young siblings or play in the fields”. These children had no school to go to – not even a church school. The nearest school is some three hours away, which is just too far and too unsafe for the young girls and boys to walk to and from every day.
Sitting and chatting with the kids and a few adults from the surrounding, Assefa decided to find a way to help these young children get education in their locality. He explained his idea to the Kebele elders and officials who accepted him right away and organized a local teaching system- a blackboard under a tree!! Chalks, pencils and books were bought by IPMS staff in Bure (Teshome and his colleagues) and Assefa.
Assefa further mobilized the community and development agents in Arbisi to build a small grass thatched classroom to start a real school for the young children. Once the construction of the classroom started, more support came from all directions (IPMS staff, Bure district office of education, and many other volunteers in and out of the country). With this support, the thatched roof classroom construction was upgraded to corrugated iron.
Classroom construction ended with a well-built roof and walls, but had only eucalyptus logs for ‘benches’. Still, more and more young girls and boys continued coming to ‘school’.
At this point, the Bure district administration office recognized the effort of Assefa and the Arbisi community and hired a full time paid teacher for the school.
So far, in 2012, Arbisi School educated 350 young girls and boys. To date, there are four classrooms; three teachers and one director. The first attendees of 2007 have reached grade 5 and were transferred to another school to continue their studies.
The well intentions vested in Arbisi School are gaining recognition and support from everywhere: BGI Ethiopia, fore example, donated 1,000 exercise books for Arbisi students and a recognition trophy for Assefa in October 2012.
Assefa continues his efforts to help Arbisi School move forward. The next step in his agenda is making Arbisi a fully-fledged elementary school. As the saying goes in IPMS ‘Development is a continuous process’ and the Arbisi School is right on that path.
(contributed by Kebede Assefa-IPMS)
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