Ethiopia, Africa

ETH03 - Begaimeder Academy: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: March 31, 2021

Update from BHW Ethiopia Partnership Facilitator

On the 18th March I managed to catch Worku at home and had an hour conversation with him. We talked through all the relevant aspects of the work there and I felt like I got a reasonably clear picture of the situation. 

Recent Events


Worku is very disturbed by the numerous internal conflicts raging within the country. He is very concerned about the fragmentation of the country and the major, ongoing ethnic clashes that seem to have no resolution. 

The war in Tigray is still very bad. Eritrea has become involved and see this as an opportunity to get revenge for past wrongs. They are siding with the army to destroy Tigray and are pillaging and looting the cities. There had been a lot of investment in the past in the Tigray economy with numerous large enterprises established. This was mainly because the most influential politicians were from the region. However, much of it has been destroyed and the World Bank estimates the amount of the destruction to be around ETB100B – around US$2.5B. The flow on effect has impacted jobs and exports as well as stability. It was far and away the most developed industrial part of the country. 

Hundreds of women have been raped by government and Eritrean soldiers. There is only one operational hospital now in Mekele. The rural areas are very dangerous with militias and guerrillas in full scale defiance of the army. Most foreign aid has been discontinued in the north and many NGOs are leaving Ethiopia entirely. 

Because of the focus on the north and Tigray the army has largely gone in that direction. They and the Eritreans have basically destroyed all the Ethiopian defence weapons. They are using drones to smash the Tigrayans and the massive arms that had been stockpiled in the north. Sudan has taken advantage of this and have taken over large swaths of disputed land in the West and driven the farmers off the land. Ethiopia is powerless to push back. This land even includes the huge new dam just recently commissioned. 

The Oromo area is also very unstable. They continue to press for independence for their State. 

The Gumuz area has become very dangerous. They do not have their own State and live in the Amhara State. The Amhara people are grabbing their land, this has been going on for many years but it has recently ramped up significantly. It is too dangerous for anyone to go there, even Ethiopians. Visitors are liable to be attacked from either or both sides. The Amhara people are using guns and massacring whole villages. The locals only have their traditional weapons and have no ability to resist. Many mass graves have been discovered. Many have fled to other places, especially into the jungle and to Sudan. They are withdrawing into the most distant, inaccessible places. 

Tension is also rising because of the next election which is due in May or June 2021. The ethnic nature of politics is making people very sceptical and fearful of violence and upheaval. In the past there were up to 50 political parties but recent imprisonments have seen opposition parties disappear and now there are only about three left. People are disappearing every day and fear surrounds politics. 

Worku has never seen people so violent and evil. There are frequent random killings and robberies. Every night on TV there are reports of evil atrocities and the discovery of murdered and brutalised people. He has had to be more careful about his personal security. He cannot go out at night and the gangs come out at dusk. He would be a target as people would see him as wealthy. There are frequent kidnappings and there are 5 or 6 robberies every night in Gonder. 

People are desperate. All the building that was going on has stopped and huge numbers of people have lost their jobs.  


There is still a lot of COVID-19 around. People are supposed to wear masks however very few do. Even doctors and hospital staff rarely have them on even while on duty. The students and staff of Begaimder are all wearing masks. It appears that there is some natural resistance for many but the elderly and health compromised are still very vulnerable and they are the ones that are dying. Vaccinations are starting with medical staff getting it first but the majority are very sceptical about it and the side effects.  

Begaimder Academy (ETH03)

doing okayWorku has been able to do some building during the lockdown and has completed the roof of the main building. The internal partitions have not been completed yet and they use the open area as a canteen for the children. The hall plans have been changed to a 2-storey building to maximise the area however there has been no recent progress on the building.

The area over behind the rock crusher is being levelled out for the development of the secondary school and the extension of the kindergarten. A roading company wants some of the gravel for roading and so the levelling will be done for free. As they were doing the levelling they discovered many large rocks that will be very useful when it comes to further building. He estimates the value of the rocks at around ETB1M (US$25,000) and a great bonus for the building.

fully operatingThe school is fully operating with around 2,000 students. There are also 150 staff including teachers, administration and other workers. Classes started late so they are struggling this year with income although they are doing OK. There is going to be a tight spot in July and August when the school is closed but salaries will have to continue being paid. They have had to become more stringent on parents who have not been paying as they cannot continue to carry people this year. They will have to put up fees next year. 

Costs have gone up significantly across the board. Fuel, gas, water, diesel and transport have all increased. Cement has risen from ETB500 per bag to over ETB1,000 as the factory in the Tigray region has been demolished. 

tough timesAbout the time of the onset of COVID-19 the government increased the starting wage for teachers. It went up from ETB3,100 (US$75) to ETB4,600 (US$115). Then with COVID, the government had to reduce class sizes so they required more teachers. This put pressure on the private schools as they had to increase their salaries to retain their teachers. This has meant the monthly wage bill rose from ETB450,000 (US$11,500) to over ETB600,000 (US$15,000). The employer contribution to superannuation was also increased. This has put up costs at a time when it has not been possible to increase income. 

Senior Citizen Ministry (ETH02b, l and m)

very beneficialThis is continuing and is very important for Worku to continue. Costs are rising every month but they continue to buy in bulk in season. The people continue to rely on this to keep them off the streets begging. Some have died from COVID but there has been no spread of the virus from the gatherings. They lengthened the time and keep the numbers smaller at any one time. 

Worku was hoping that he would have been able to raise more local funds through his NGO status but COVID has made that impossible at the moment. July/August could be quite tight as they have no income from the school during those months. 

Blind Student’s Scholarship (ETH02k)

The nine students are still involved and doing very well. The partially blind female student graduated from teacher’s college and has a full time job in a government school. She is now off the programme and self-sustaining. They had to provide her with bedding and clothes at the beginning of her job but now she is off by herself and doing really well. The increase in salary by the government has helped her. 

The youngest student is in the final year of his teacher training and is currently posted to a government school for three months. He has a job for next year at that school. They supplied his bedding and clothes to be able to enter the classroom as a teacher. Also, basic equipment for living as he was not at the Blind Centre any more. Later this year he will leave the programme. Worku is very happy about their success. 

One student is sitting Grade 12 examinations this year and will go to University next year. The rest are all in Grade 11 with one more year to go of secondary school. Every month they come to the office to visit Teringo and pick up their money. Every two weeks Teringo visits them at home and at school. Worku sees them monthly. 

Church planting and the Gumuz area (ETH02a and c)

This has come to a halt for now. Three main reasons have contributed to this:
1) the initial lack of available funds from the school,
2) the onset of COVID-19 which has impacted the earning capacity of the school and made ministry very difficult and
3) the political instability which has stopped most activity in the Gumuz area and in many rural villages. 

All the villages in the area of Gilgal Beles which we have visited have either been abandoned by the people or destroyed by those wanting to take the land. It is impossible to communicate as phone-calls are being monitored by the government to try and find those supporting the Gumuz people. It is a very difficult situation. Worku fears that many believers have been killed and have run.

Worku has not been able to assess in recent times where the people have gone. He hopes that those who have become Christ followers will continue to take the Good News with them. 


Prayer and Praise Points

1) For Worku’s safety with all the uncertainty and violence
2) For the impact of the virus to begin subsiding
3) For a peaceful election and an easing of ethnic tension
4) That more stability will result in the school numbers staying up so they can afford to meet their obligations