Ethiopia, Africa

ETH02c - Support of Key Leaders: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: November 16, 2022

great to be backReport from BHW Ethiopia Partnership Facilitator Following Visit 28-30 October

What a joy to be back here after three years! I arrived on a Friday and left on a Sunday. It was a very busy weekend so I could not get around to see everything. However, I was able to spend good time with Worku, talk about a lot of stuff, and get information about all the aspects of the partnership. 

Begaimeder Academy, Gondar (ETH03)

The school is buzzing after two difficult years interrupted by Covid. The leaders of the school are outstanding, this place is an education factory, they are pumping out great kids. Worku has such pressure on him from the community to grow the school and this year a whole new kindergarten section has been opened. There are now 945 kids in kindergarten in three different years. The primary school continues to grow as well from Grades 1 – 8. In 2016 they started with 152 children and have now grown to 1,861. 

impressiveOverall, the school is doing extremely well. They have a certificate from the local government saying out of 66 government kindergartens and elementary schools and 34 private ones, they are the top school. They even included the 64 secondary schools in the award, even though they do not have a secondary department. In the five full years of operation and Grade 8's sitting government exams they have a 100% pass rate, that is no fails from 587 students so far. All the secondary schools want the Begaimeder children to come to them as they come top of all their classes. The queue of parents wanting entry for their kids is huge and this year an extra class was added in kindergarten, just because of the demand.  

All this places a lot of pressure on Worku to keep growing. He budgeted to have the newest building completed for around ETB420k (US$7,925) but because of the huge increase in prices it cost ETB1.2M (US$22,650). However, he had to finish it as he could not leave it without a roof and windows. This year he has therefore opened a whole new section of six new classrooms; there are now 21 classes of 45 chlidren at three levels. 

impressiveThe kindergarten classrooms are beautifully enhanced and so well set up. The teachers are encouraged to be creative, and they are rising to the challenge. There is such a great atmosphere in the school. There are now around 945 children in kindergarten making a total student number around 2,800. 

The cost of running this must be huge; 71 teachers in elementary, 48 in kindergarten and 61 support staff make for a large monthly bill. The fuel cost for the eight buses has risen from ETB25k/weekly (US$480) to ETB53k/week (US$1,020). Each bus does four trips every morning and every evening. He is also about to increase the wages of the teachers. Several new schools have opened and are trying to poach his teachers. He knows this is inevitable, but he wants to make sure he retains the best ones at least so he is not having to constantly be finding good people and investing in their training. Right now he is advertising for a senior staff member. 

The huge increase in prices for everything is creating significant problems. Last year the school made a loss, one wonders how long that can continue. Of course, Covid contributed to this. They do not have the luxury of increasing fees during a year and were caught out last year. This year the fees were increased from ETB700/month to ETB900/month (US$17.30) for Grades 1–8 and ETB975/month (US$18.75) for kindergarten and the parents were willing to pay. 

impressiveTo finish the building he had started he had to pretty much use up all his reserves of cash but he is hoping that the prices will not go up much more and with the extra students he will be able to cope. 

It would be fair to say that the place does need a lot of maintenance. The walls are grubby from the kids' hands, a lot of the finishing work on the buildings is shoddy and there is still a lot of work to be done to finish off the buildings. This includes a large area of flooring to be laid, either tiles or plaster, a lot of hard rendering on the exterior, and the top floor needs to be finished with a floor and windows. There is a huge amount of painting needed, new and refresh, windows and glass in some non-essential areas, replacement of broken tiles, broken doors and handles, it’s a long list. I guess he will get there eventually. The pressure to build another whole block of classrooms means that some of the maintenance just had to be deferred. 

still in good conditionIt is still early in the new school year and there is plenty of work going on. I was there over a weekend and there were workers to attend to on both days, there is no rest for Worku. Two guys were replacing a water pipe which required digging up a pipe in very hard ground for about 50 metres, water is a constant issue and he just installed another tank. Three guys were putting the ceiling in one of the new classrooms – they are sewing material and then painting it so it goes hard. Two guys were planing timber and making bookshelves. Another guy was replacing a burst radiator hose in one of the buses… and so it goes on. 

The property is improving, maturing as trees grow and bare spaces are being developed. The playground is in great condition despite the huge number of children that play on it. 

Future Plans 

impressiveWorku is still thinking about what is next. As we wandered around on the last day he pointed out an area beside the new kindergarten where he wants to build more administration, then a ramp out of the third floor of the main building as it takes too long for the kids to get in and out, then a meeting hall, and to finish off the fifth floor by shifting all the labs up there and the library etc. 

His longer-term plans to build the secondary school have had to be deferred, first by Covid but mainly by the instability and war in the north and the economic impact it is having. He is thinking this may still happen in three- or four-years' time. 

Prayer / Issues 

1) The war in the north is very concerning and is taking a huge human toll. It makes him sad at the abuse of power and the human suffering. 

impressive2) The continual rise in prices that is making operations very difficult. Not just for him, but for everyone. 

3) On the last day as we chatted, he got back to his original vision, church planting. He is very frustrated that this has not been possible for a few years. There are three major reasons he has identified:
- He has lost confidence in the church leaders in the north of Ethiopia. They have become very political and along with that have got into the prosperity gospel thing. He could not trust them to work with them now. 
- The situation in the Gumuz area means there will not be opportunities there for the foreseeable future. And as the churches already there are part of the established churches, there may not be a good possibility of reconnection.
- The pressure of Covid, the war and increased costs has not made it possible to put any funds aside for this purpose. 

It is still very much on his agenda and as soon as he is able, he will be reengaging in the support of church planting and evangelism. He talked about involvement in a radio or electronic Bible project, and I said that when the time is right I will connect him to the brethren guys in Addis. 


Widow Feeding Programmes

It has been a bit of a struggle over the last two years to keep this going with the impact of Covid and the huge rise in costs. But he has done so, even though the school made a loss last year. In the past year ETB1.1M (US$20,800) has been used for this programme. This will need to increase significantly this year as food prices have gone through the roof. 

Currently they are caring for 135 elderly people in the three main centres, Asezo (ETH02l), Gondar  (ETH02b) and Tikil Dengay (ETH02m). Since Covid they do not gather together but drift in and out to get their food. He is hoping that this will change soon but the old are still quite vulnerable to Covid. Some have died and others have moved away and they have not been replaced yet. There was no point going to visit them and Worku was very busy while I was there to get out to Tikil Dengay. The security situation in that area also made it a little bit of an issue. 


Blind Student Scholarships (ETH02k)

This is still operating and Worku is really rapt with the outcomes. He gave me an update about them all:
- One lady is now a school teacher and is working so does not require support
- Another guy has just completed his training as a teacher and they were supporting him still while he was looking for a job. We heard while I was here that he had just got his first job in a town on the road to Bahir Dar.
- One student was at Gondar University and got a scholarship worth more than their support so that has stopped.
- Two students are being supported at university
- The final four are in their last year of secondary school and sat their exams last week. They are waiting for the results to think about what might be next for them. 

The lady that manages this is still working with Worku and also does some part-time work at the school. 


Support of Key Leaders (ETH02c)

This is not operating again since the direct funding stopped. Also, the work in the Gumuz area has gone very quiet because of the political situation out there. There is no communication at all. No one is allowed to go there to visit. Worku is very concerned that many of them have been killed or scattered into the bush and has no idea what might have become of them. 



I cannot speak highly enough of the calibre of the school and the atmosphere within it. The team are truly outstanding. The care and love they show is patently obvious. It is no wonder that it is the best school in the area and that there is a long list of people wanting their children to come. On the afternoon I was there two sisters came into the office begging for their kids to be allowed to enter. It was so sad to see them in tears as Worku had to lovingly yet firmly explain that it is just not possible. They left very sad. He then told me the next day that he had relented and rung and told them they could come! 

I spent about an hour with Asayta Melese and we walked around the school and into every classroom. And there are plenty of them! She is so passionate about the children and education. The children love her and flock to her for high fives and hugs. It is the same with Worku, it is lovely to see. Asayta is the Educational Director of the kindergarten and has just got her Masters in Educational Management. We thought she might have left Begaimeder as she had photos on Facebook teaching at an English Academy, but it was just during the long holidays and she is not leaving anytime soon! 

The Director of the elementary school, Mr Sheleles, very proudly showed me all the figures from year to year and the photos of the grade 8 students who had graduated to secondary school. I cannot get over 100% pass rate. The pride was oozing out of him!