Ethiopia, Africa

ETH03 - Begaimeder Academy: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: November 17, 2016

Report from BHW Field Director Following Visit in October


Begaimder Academy

Begaimder Academy – Operations 

new school yearCurrently there are over 200 children signed up for school which started on Monday 3rd October. This is way down on what is required to make the place self-sustaining. Worku reckons that he needs about 400 to get to break even and so he can begin repaying the loan to the bank. However, there are still some days to go before registrations will be finished and over 30 children were registered the first day I was there on the 30th September. 

The political situation has badly affected all schools with parents reluctant to send their children until they know what is happening and things settle down. If it doesn’t it is going to be a very difficult time for the foreseeable future. Worku has heard of some schools struggling to stay open as there are hardly any students registering for classes. 

keen to learnThe kindergarten has been functioning well with most of the classrooms being occupied. There is still room for many more. There are about 14 teachers on staff now for the kindergarten and primary school as well as administrative staff. If the students don’t show up there will still be bills to pay. 

The woman who was running the kindergarten last year went back to Addis Ababa at the end of the last school year. Her family situation and the political unrest caused her to leave. She kept promising to come back to oversee the work and the development of the teachers but let him down many times. 

I was there on the weekend before the school year was to start. On the Friday a man was supposed to come from Addis to train the teachers in the use of the curriculum but he went down sick so the training was delayed for a day. It happened on the Saturday and Sunday. Elias came on Saturday and spent all day with the teachers and the two main academic leaders of the school. I think he is a good guy and knows what is required. One of Worku’s dilemmas is that he has had to focus so much on the facility development that the development of staff and processes are a bit behind. But Elias has the goods and will be mentoring the academic leaders. He runs an education mentoring programme and Worku is using his curriculum materials. 

bus runThere are just so many things to organise for Worku and his people are not initiative takers. On the Monday he was overseeing the first day of school, driving the bus, organising more work on the building and on the grounds and interviewing people. I went on the bus trip to deliver children to their homes after school. It requires three staff members on each bus as the little kids don’t know where they live. It was fun going with them but pretty full on. 

On day two many more students arrived, most of the more than 200 who have registered. By 10.30 am another 15 new students had come to be registered as well so Worku was a little happier than the day before. He expects that students will continue to register for another two weeks at least in the primary and they continue registering right through the year in the kindergarten. 

Worku has set up a management team to oversee the operations of the school. They collect the money, bank it, make decisions about what they need and handle requests from parents and children. This has taken a huge load from him and he was already, two days into the school term, noticing that he was getting less calls. I encouraged him, for his own sake, to make sure he develops separation between ownership/governance and operations/management. He gets that, but it is a new world for him to have a team and he also has to learn to trust again. 

Begaimder Academy - Property Development 

half finishedThe primary school currently operates in one end of the main building with five classrooms fully functional and another five almost ready to operate. The place was barely ready for opening on the 3rd October and painting, glazing, sweeping and washing were still being done on opening day. Stalls have been erected in bathrooms and water is being connected. 

As well as the ongoing work on the buildings, which is very obvious, a lot of work has been done on the grounds. Many retaining walls have been built so the area around the school is relatively flat. Plenty of work is going on with women scraping, carrying and levelling soil. A lot of water seeps out of the hill and there is considerable runoff during heavy rain. A large drain has been dug around the base of the major excavation to divert the water away from the levelled areas and to protect the retaining walls. 

Tonnes of black rock have been brought in for crushing and use on the buildings and grounds. At the far end of the property, past the rock crusher, there has been a lot of levelling and digging with heavy machinery. This is where the primary school will eventually be built.  

New Profiles

head of kindergartenTigist Gubena is the new head of the kindergarten. She worked for 9 years at Kings Academy leading the kindergarten of 600 children so has good experience. She is a vibrant Christian and Worku thinks she will be a great asset. She seems to be lovely. Her husband is Jewish, Falasha, and is a Christian as well. He lectures in education at the local teacher training college. They have two children, Lydia and Gihon. Tigist left Kings Academy to start her own preschool but the political situation meant that it was not successful. 

Mandefro Abundy Tadesse (seated) is the young guy in charge of the primary school. He seems like a decent chap. He is single and has spent the last three years as the principal of a government school in rural Bahir Dar. He was totally discouraged by his role and the politics of education. He started with 700 students at the beginning of the year and by the end there were good teamonly 50 remaining. This is not uncommon in rural areas. But the figures for all statistics are based on the beginning of the year and it is far from an accurate assessment of the reality. 

He did a degree in teaching and school management and went straight into the headmaster’s role, that’s how they do it here. I’m sure that contributes to the drop off in student numbers as well. 



crazy busyWorku is very busy. It’s like he is running from morning to night and gets little time to think about anything but getting the school up and running. He is constantly fielding questions, encouraging people, having team meetings and answering the phone. He has people doing specific roles but when there is a contractor on site he cannot take his eye off them for a minute. The day I was there the plumber was getting the water connected. We walked into the staff bathroom and the basin for handwashing was nowhere near the right place or where the drain pipe was. He had just put in the water pipe for the tap without measuring it, drilled holes in the wall and it was at least a foot in the wrong place. Not just in the wrong place but all the holes drilled in the wall tiles were in the wrong place! This all happened while Worku was doing something else for an hour. 

There is still no power on site which is making things increasingly difficult to operate. Worku is seriously considering running his own line from across the hill at the cost of ETB400,000 (US$19,000). There have also been severe water shortages and Worku has had to purchase extra water tanks to transport water. 

When I asked about the greatest need his answer was “prayer.” Due to the political situation things could go very nasty, very quickly. The people are very angry and very united. Unless there are major changes at the government level this will boil over and there is little hope of a good outcome.  Many people have been killed and every day more and more young people disappear. No one knows what happens to them. 

Worku’s sister Achu was married here in August to a local guy. He is an educator and I can see that part of Worku’s plan is to involve family in the school operation so he can concentrate on the church planting and widow projects. Probably not a bad plan actually as he can really only trust family when there is such a valuable property involved. Having them around has been a great encouragement to him as well. 


Senior Care

I managed to visit two of the programs, Gondar (ETH02b) and Asezo (ETH02l).

The daily programs were allowed to continue operating during the recent strikes so at least that was not affected and the seniors were still fed. In talking with them it’s obvious that their expectations about life in old age are pretty low. As long as they have somewhere to sleep and food that’s all they want. These programs give them at least what they feel they require. It’s still a pretty miserable existence even though they “are still alive” as one guy told me. 

laughs easilyTegabo Amaldi – is a character of a man. He tells stories and fables constantly and laughs easily despite his obvious lack of anything decent. He lives about a kilometre away from the Gondar site. He was a farmer in a village about two hours out of Gondar. 15 years ago the government took his land and gave him a house in Asezo. His wife and three children are all dead and he has no grandchildren. 

He came to town and for some years used to tend cattle for someone and that got him a little money for food. But those people brought their cattle into a shelter rather than graze them out on the land so he had no work or income. He begged on the streets for two years before he heard about this place. Still today his tattered clothes were given to him by some charitable people. 

He has nothing to do so he comes to the centre early most days to meet his friends and talk. He would be very sad and lonely if this place was not available. In fact, he said, “I would be dead.”

tough lifeEmawayesh Adana is a sad little woman. She lived in a rural village for many years until during the fighting 25 years ago they fled to Gondar and they have lived here ever since. Her husband died and she has one daughter. The daughter lives in a village and her husband died too, so her two grandchildren have been sent to live with her so they can go to school. She has to beg to send her grandchildren to school, the girl is 18 years old and the boy 16. They are not doing so well at school because they cannot afford the costs. 

She has been coming to the centre since it opened and doesn’t know how they would survive without the help. She gets food for all three of them. As a young person, while still living in the village, she hurt her arm while working in the field. She tried to treat it with local medicines but it got worse. Eventually she came to the city and they amputated her right arm. She is obviously embarrassed still about it and it makes life difficult for her. In addition, she is not well and her legs are quite swollen. 

The number of beneficiaries at the Asezo programme has risen to 70 as planned and another woman has been brought in to help. The biggest job is making 150 injera each day, they begin at 6.30am and finish around 2.30pm.

tough livesI interviewed three at the Asezo programme. All of them told stories of loss, death and abandonment. One woman (in the middle) was in tears as she told how she had a few possessions and lived in Addis Ababa. She had one daughter who invited her to come and live with her in Gondar. So she sold up everything and came. After about three years she fell out with her daughter who kicked her out and has nothing to do with her. She has nothing. The local Council is building some houses like the one at the other project in Gondar and she has been promised a place in that. 

The old man went blind 24 years ago and has no one to care for him. He has two daughters but they cannot help him. Even his clothes are given to him by others. He lives on the veranda of someone who lets him stay there for a small amount. He begs to get enough to pay for the rent and would not eat without the senior care programme, he would be dead. 

The third woman has one daughter. A few years ago the daughter came to town from the village and the mother has not heard from her since then. She doesn’t know if she is dead or alive. She then came to town to look for her and has never gone back to her village. She begs to get THB130 (US$6.50) / month for rent and comes to the programme to get food as she would not eat without it. 

The circumstances of these people affects me every time I hear another story. It’s so desperate. I would like there to be more care for the people, a Christian social worker to work with them. I’ll bring it up with Worku as there is a lot more spiritual input that could be given.     

The program at Tikel Dingaye (ETH02m) is going well. They have got another room in which to store their things and have opened out the front of the building to get more light in. They have also built permanent seating so they don’t have to sit in the ground. This has helped a lot. 


Church Planting (ETH02c)

This continues to go well. The number of people involved is the same. Two of them left and went back to their homes but were replaced. The training continues. Worku has not been able to get there this year but he is planning to get there again as soon as the school settles down. 


Blind Youth Education (ETH02k)

This is still helping those young people who are part of it. One of the girls finished her secondary school education but did not get enough marks to get into university. She has been accepted into a teacher's training college and will be starting soon. The funding will help to do that. I didn’t get there this time as Worku was so busy. 


Ideas for the Future

back at school1) Worku would love for Westerners to come and spend time at the school, up to a year. He is contacting a number of groups who find people to do this. The greatest selling point for the school is that it is English medium and if there are Westerners on the team it makes all the difference in terms of confidence of the parents. Because the school is near the University, many of the faculty want to send their children but they are discerning and realise that a facility does not produce good results, it is the calibre of the staff. I think some of the current staff do not have adequate English, especially in the kindergarten. 

Anyone who came would spend time with the students and the teachers. It would also force the staff to speak English. There would be the opportunity to run an English language academy for the community as an income generation activity. 

They could also assist a great deal with the development of resources and getting the English correct on their signs and publications. 

2) There is a lack of English language reading materials. They would love to get many children’s story books and build up a library. There is very little reading material available here in English.