What it takes to truly educate a girl in Ethiopia – An entire system investing in quality education

By Amanda Westfall

Filmawit Layn, a ten-year-old girl at Addishihu Primary School in the Emba Alaje Woreda (District), Tigray Region is the type of student and daughter most parents dream of – smart, beautiful, and extremely confident.

EMBA ALAJE WOREDA, TIGRAY, 01 December 2017 – Filmawit Layn is from rural Ethiopia and attends public school, where although school structures and teachers are in place, the quality of teaching has been notably weak. In Ethiopia, less than half of all primary school students are passing their end-of-year exams, and only 4 per cent of Grade 2 students can proficiently read (NAEA 2016 and EGRA 2014).

These statistics raise concerns if children – like Filmawit – are actually learning at school and developing skills that will help them reach their full potentials, realize their dreams, and lead their country one day.

“…if children – like Filmawit -are developing skills that will help them reach their full potentials, realize their dreams and lead their country one day.”

To address these concerns, UNICEF and the Government introduced the Assessment for Learning (AfL) initiative – where teachers are equipped with skills, resources and a supporting environment to shift their teaching approaches to become more active, continuous, competency-based, and engaging for students, with the ultimate goal of improving learning outcomes.

Through UNICEF-designed capacity building workshops, teachers are learning how to collect real-time information on their students’ learning levels. This way teaching is better informed, lesson planning is better prepared, and wider support is given to children.

“Teachers are shifting their teaching approaches to become more active, continuous, competency-based, and engaging for students.”

Filmawit lives with her grandmother, Belaynesh Mengiste, who fortunately understands the value of education. Belaynesh was just in 4th grade, when she had to leave school to fight in the terrible civil war against the former Derg Regime, putting an end to her childhood education. Thus, she does not want the same thing to happen for her granddaughter. While most parents require their children to help out with livelihood chores (farming, caring for livestock, collecting water), Belaynesh instead decided to enroll Filmawit in extra language classes. Balaynesh’s goal is for Filmawit to score high grades on her final primary exam so that when she reaches 8th grade, she could be accepted in the elite Kalamino Secondary School in Mekele where the smartest children in Tigray go to.

Girls Education-Tigray
Filmawit and her grandmother / caretaker Belaynesh Mengiste ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Amanda Westfall

Committed community leaders bring quality education to girls

It takes not only teachers, but an entire community to bring quality education to girls like Filmawit.

With AfL, parents and caretakers – like  Filmawit’s Grandmother, Belaynesh Mengstie – have begun to play a more active role in the learning process of their children. Before AfL, most parents hardly knew what was happening at school. Since the implementation of AfL, many schools have now started a tri-partite agreement among the student, teacher, and caretaker, where they agree on goals for the year – per subject – and review where they stand on a monthly basis.

Filmawit is lucky to have such an inspiring 4th Grade homeroom teacher. Etenesh Mulugeta is the focal point for AfL at the school. The UNICEF AfL training is normally provided to each school’s director and one or two teachers, and Etenesh was one of the beneficiaries of the training. “I am so happy to have been part of this important training and will train others. It makes life so much easier!” said Etenesh. She trained all teachers in the school, along with other teachers in the region (a total of 135 teachers). She sees vast improvements in learning because of the new techniques, mainly regarding reading and writing, where she measures levels of all of her 57 students on a monthly basis. This approach encouraged her to develop new innovative ways to fill the learning gaps, for example, by establishing peer groups in children’s neighbourhoods so they can support each other after school.

Mesele Gebre Ezgiabher, the school director, was also trained by UNICEF in AfL. Before AfL, the standard practice of teachers was to automatically give a pass grade for everyone even if they cannot read or write. Now Mesele is taking exams very seriously. “First, we must ensure that teachers base teaching on minimum learning competencies (MLCs) and with the AfL methodology. Second, promotion must be based on achievement that is linked to MLCs and students should not just automatically pass to the next grade.”

In Filmawit’s woreda where 57 primary schools are present, Tadele Berhe Woldu serves as the woreda coordinator for curriculum development. He explained that before AfL, when the schools reported on end-of-year exams, most schools gave students passing marks of 100 per cent. However, when the woreda administered the exams, the average was actually 56.8 per cent who passed for Grades 1-4. This happened because the schools used to be rewarded if all students passed, which resulted in teachers preparing simple exams to ensure that all the children passed. Now, the woreda sends experts to check the exams before they are administered, to ensure they reflect the MLCs. “We knew the schools were cheating when all of them reported a 100 per cent passing rate. This is not good for our nation … In the end the children will not have the skills to get jobs. But now, this problem is totally changing,” said Tadele.

The Government has set a goal to create a new learning generation for the country. But real learning can only be achieved if a system of teachers, school administrators, and government invest in strategies to improve the quality of teaching; if teachers are qualified, given appropriate learning materials, and taught clear methodologies to educate students. And teachers can only provide quality support if they have a system assisting them at the collegiate, woreda, regional and national levels.

AfL fits within existing educational structures, and has the utmost involvement by parents and caretakers, making it more sustainable and long-lasting. It was introduced in Ethiopia in mid-2013 and has since expanded to eight regions (includes the six regions of Amhara, Harari, Oromia, Somali, Tigray, and Benishangul-Gumuz, as well as the city-states of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa), with the plan to incorporate it in all eleven regions of the country.

With AfL an entire system is working together to help Filmawit realize her dreams to become an engineer so she can build a better future for her country, and even more so, to become a great leader in Africa.

48,000 babies to be born on New Year’s Day in Eastern and Southern Africa

NAIROBI/JOHANNESBURG/ADDIS ABABA, 1 January 2018:  Approximately 48,000 babies will be born in the Eastern and Southern Africa region on New Year’s Day, UNICEF said today, as the UN Children’s Fund asked nations around the region to make sure more newborns survive their first days of life.

In 2016, an estimated 2,600 children around the world died within the first 24 hours, every day of the year. Across that same year, 136,000 newborns died in Ethiopia and The United Republic of Tanzania combined, placing them in fifth and ninth position, respectively, among the ten countries with the highest neonatal deaths in the world. Among those children, more than 80 per cent of all newborn deaths are due to preventable and treatable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia. 

ENHANCING SKILLED DELIVERY IN ETHIOPIA, EU-ESDE

“This New Year, UNICEF’s resolution is to help give every child more than an hour, more than a day, more than a month – more than survival,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa. “We call on governments and partners to maintain and expand their efforts to save millions of children’s lives by providing proven, low-cost solutions.”

UNICEF says that babies born in Eastern and Southern Africa will account for 12 per cent of the estimated 386,000 babies to be born globally on New Year’s Day.  Almost 58 per cent of these births will take place in five countries within the region, with the largest number of births on New Year’s Day projected for Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia 9,023
  • The United Republic of Tanzania 5,995
  • Uganda 4,953
  • Kenya 4,237
  • Angola 3,417

Over the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But despite these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns. Babies dying in the first month account for 46 per cent of all deaths among children under five.

In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 38 per cent of all newborn deaths. Despite stark improvements in child survival within the continent, child mortality remains high and important challenges need to be met to accommodate the projected increase in births and prevent African countries with high fertility rates from falling further below international benchmarks for maternal, newborn and child care.

Chief among them is to vastly expand systems and interventions for maternal, newborn and child health. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. From 2015 to 2050, some 1.8 billion babies are projected to be born in Africa – 700 million more than were born in the preceding 35-year period (1980-2014). Ensuring that these births are attended by skilled professionals and that new mothers have adequate care and attention before, during and after childbirth represents an immense and unprecedented challenge.

Next month, UNICEF will launch Every Child Alive, a global campaign to demand and deliver affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn. These include a steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, the presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, disinfecting the umbilical cord, breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.

“We are now entering the era when all the world’s newborns should have the opportunity to see the 22nd Century,” Leila Pakkala. “Unfortunately, nearly half of the children born this year likely won’t. We can all do more.”

In Ethiopia, passionate teachers prepare children for school

By Kosumo Shiraishi

BURKA RAMIS, OROMIA, 21 August 2017- In Burka Ramis, a remote rural village of West Hararge, Oromia region, Ethiopia, 50 young boys and girls sing cheerfully in their classroom. It is summer, a school break time for the rest of the pupils, but for these children, it is a regular class session.

Beriso Genemo, their teacher, prepares detailed weekly and monthly lesson plans. He decided to join teachers in his school who participate in summer teaching of beginners, because he understands the importance of school readiness, especially for children from rural and disadvantaged communities.

This summer initiative is known as the Accelerated-School-Readiness (ASR) programme. ASR is an innovative early learning model that lasts eight weeks and targets six-year-olds from poor families. It provides quality education by trained teachers such as Beriso to help children, who previously had no access to preschool or other early learning models, so that they make smooth transition from home to school.

Teachers prepare children for school
Beriso Genemo provides outdoor play activities for children from disadvantaged families as a part of the ASR programme in West Hararge, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Kosumo

“The programme helps children to learn better and reach to their full potential,” says Beriso “I could already see their progress.”

Other ASR teachers, Huseein Ahmed from Nano Bereda School and Adana Geri from Borte School also acknowledge the importance of the programme. They explained that attending the ASR class is helpful because children can learn how to take lessons, interact with teacher and classmates and go to school by themselves.

Supporting children who don’t have the opportunity for early learning

Research shows that investing in quality early learning programmes is one of the most effective ways to improve a child’s success in a school.[1] In Ethiopia, children under five comprise the largest age bracket in the population. There are approximately 10 million children aged 0-3 years, and 7.7 million children aged 4-6 years. Investing in Early Child Development (ECD) interventions, like early learning, is critical for the long-term prosperity of the country.

There are other forms of school readiness programmes in Ethiopia, the largest being the government’s “O” pre-school classes. However, ASR is one that fills a crucial gap because it operates in communities where formal preschool classes are not possible, such as in rural areas where it is difficult and costly to provide quality “O” classes.

UNICEF through the Swiss National Committee, with generous support from Roche, is currently supporting Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education to develop and implement the ASR programme in four regions (Oromia, Amhara, SNNP and Beningal-Gumuz).

Every ASR teacher participates in a comprehensive training and is provided with resource materials (books), as well as individual exercise booklets (workbooks) to distribute to each child.

The programme has generated commitment from all levels of Government, teachers communities and children as well. Abduselam, a community member from Burka Ramis says, “We appreciate this programme that prepares our children for proper education. Our community is providing support by renovating class rooms and encouraging families to send their six-year-old children to school.”

Beriso became a teacher eight years ago because he believes in empowering children and developing human resources within the country. “My dream is to see these disadvantaged children attending the ASR programme to become good citizens in our society.”

[1] Multiple research studies have evidenced the importance of early learning. See UNICEF’s research website for more details: https://www.unicef-irc.org/knowledge-pages/Early-Childhood/

Italy and UNICEF sign the agreement for the second phase of the “vital events registration project”.

ADDIS ABABA, 6 December 2017: Italy and UNICEF signed today a financing agreement for the project “Strengthening the Civil Registration System for Children’s Right to Identity: Identification for Development – ID – Second Phasefor an amount of one million Euros.

The first phase of the project is currently under implementation in 50% of the Woredas and Kebeles of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions. The second phase, which is funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for a period of 12 months, will cover the remaining 50% of the Woredas and Kebeles of Oromia and SNNP Regional States.

The agreement signed today by the Italian Ambassador Arturo Luzzi, the UNICEF Representative, Ms. Gillian Mellsop and the Director of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Ms. Ginevra Letizia, will implement strategic activities aimed at: 1)improving institutional and technical capacity of the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies (RVERAs) in Oromia and SNNPR; 2) establishing a standardized database and data management system; 3) providing RVERAs with modern IT devices and transportation, in order to better reach remote and disadvantaged areas. 820,000 newborn children will benefit from this initiative.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Arturo Luzzi, Ambassador of Italy to Ethiopia said that: “Through this initiative, we reiterate our strong commitment to work closely with the Ethiopian Authorities in order to ensure the basic rights and protection of newborns and children, since the first crucial step of identification and registration”.

Italy and UNICEF sign the agreement for the second phase of the “vital events registration project”
Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia says: the Italy support will allow UNICEF to scale up its programmatic support to the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies of Oromia and SNNP region.

Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, on her part said: “We enter into the second phase of this partnership having witnessed encouraging results over the past twelve months. The renewed support will allow UNICEF to scale up its programmatic support to the Regional Vital Events Registration Agencies of Oromia and SNNP regions in their efforts to further improve and standardize the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system.”

Ms. Ginevra Letizia, Head of the Addis Ababa Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation underlined that “The project works at community level, raising the awareness on the importance and benefits of birth registration, that is a crucial element for each individual also allowing citizens to benefit from social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights, reducing the phenomena of marginalization and exploitation”.

MIND THE GAP – BABYWASH Launched on World Toilet Day to Improve Integrated Early Childhood Development in Ethiopia

By Samuel Godfrey

When you travel in a car through Addis Ababa, you will note that adult women and men vary greatly in height. There are tall people and short people. So which ones of these are actually stunted? And why? Scientifically stunting is defined as a reduced growth rate in human development and is a primary manifestation of malnutrition or more accurately under nutrition. The definition of stunting according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is for the “height for age” value to be less than two standard deviations of the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

So how does under nutrition occur? Recent scientific evidence suggests that under nutrition is a result of recurrent infections such as diarrhoea or helminthiasis in early childhood and even before birth. In 2016, UNICEF Ethiopia, published a blog entitled BABY WASH – the missing piece of the puzzle[1]?, in which evidence from a paper published by UNICEF and John Hopkins University in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and International Health[2] highlighted the need to target interventions to reduce unsafe practices of disposal of baby and child faeces. To convert this evidence into action, the Government of Ethiopia, UNICEF and partners have developed a BABYWASH implementation guideline. The guideline aims at contributing to improving Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) through improving the baby and child environment.

World Toilet Day 2017: safe disposal of child faeces
Lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

The 2017 World Toilet Day was a perfect opportunity to launch the BABYWASH guideline. The document includes guidance on how to implement programmes with safe disposal of child faeces, providing protective environments through play mats and similar measures as well as prevention of soil transmitted helminths. The strategy was endorsed for implementation alongside regular safe sanitation and hygiene practices which are already being promoted by health extension workers. In his statement, H.E Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health of Ethiopia said, “In Ethiopia, there is a common misconception that children’s faeces are not harmful while evidence shows otherwise. The current sanitation and hygiene promotion efforts, at times, overlook safe disposal of children’s faeces. In addition, most toilets are not designed keeping children’s special needs in mind. Hence, I am proud to endorse the Baby WASH manual today which was developed by the Federal Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF and other partners in order to ensure a healthy environment for children’s growth and development especially those under three years of age.”

Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia on her part said, “UNICEF is pleased to support the Ministry of Health in preparing these excellent guidelines on Baby WASH. We know that a contaminated environment harms infants and young children and puts them at risk of increased child mortality and stunting. Together, we have to ensure that parents and guardians, teachers and community leaders are aware of the importance of Baby WASH.”

According to the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) baseline survey on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene carried out in eight regions of Ethiopia, there is a general misconception about child faeces disposal. The survey showed that a lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. According to the survey, only half (49 per cent) of women knew that child faeces are dangerous to health. Misconception is higher among rural pastoralist women where only 39 per cent said child faeces are dangerous as compared with 50 per cent among rural non-pastoralist women and 54 per cent of women in urban areas. Although it may not be clear who is stunted and who is not just by looking at a child, it’s clear that safe disposal of child faeces helps improve a child’s health. Therefore, UNICEF will continue to support the Government with the implementation of the guideline throughout the country.

[1] https://unicefethiopia.org/2016/05/24/baby-wash-the-missing-piece-of-the-puzzle

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27546207

Children Takeover Minister Roles as Ethiopia celebrates World Children’s Day and UNICEF Ethiopia’s 65th Anniversary

20 November 2017, United Nations Conference Centre, Addis Ababa: Today, Ethiopia joined the global World Children’s Day celebrations by giving children high profile roles to become champions of their rights. In line with the event’s theme ‘For children, By children’ child parliamentarians took over the roles of the Ministers of: Women and Children’s Affairs; Health; Education; Water, Irrigation and Electricity; Labour and Social Affairs; and Urban Works and Construction. In addition, children took over the roles of the Attorney General and UNICEF Representative. In their new roles as ‘shadow Ministers’, children shared their ideas on issues that affect their lives.

World Children's Day and UNICEF Ethiopia 65th anniversary
Sara Beshir shadow Minister of Women and Children Affairs. Her message on World Children’s Day: attitudes towards violence angst children and women need to be changed. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

At the event, which was truly owned by children, some of the key recommendations proposed by children include:

  • Accelerate efforts to end harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
  • Provide clean water and sanitation services for all children across the country, no matter where they live
  • Build more hospitals that are focused on child health and ensure health professionals treat children with care and love
  • Involve children in child justice
  • Ensure quality education for all children through skilled teachers, including pre-primary education
  • Ensure that girls stay in school and finish their education
  • Provide more playgrounds and safe spaces, especially in urban and peri-urban settings
  • Include children’s voices when adults and local authorities discuss issues that affect children’s lives.

Child parliamentarians from different regions also had an opportunity to discuss issues relevant to children in Ethiopia with shadow Ministers and dignitaries through a Q&A session.

In her opening remarks, H.E Ms Demitu Hambisa, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, stated that this year’s World Children’s Day is a day of action for children by children. She highlighted that decision makers need to ensure that children’s voices are heard and reflected in decisions that affect their lives.

World Children's Day and UNICEF Ethiopia 65th anniversary
Minister of Women and Children Affairs , Ms Demitu Hambisa speaking during World Children’s Day. She says; listening to children’s voices and involving them in decision making is key. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, emphasising the need for the participation of children said, “Meaningful participation of children is not only a fundamental right – and enshrined as such in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – but is also key to ensuring that decisions made by adults are relevant to the actual needs of children.”

World Children's Day and UNICEF Ethiopia 65th anniversary
Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia speaking on World Children’s Day. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Nahom Tesfaye

In addition, UNICEF Ethiopia launched its publication ‘Hulem Lehisanat- Always for children’ depicting its 65 years history serving children and women in Ethiopia.

The event highlighted the importance of including children’s voices by providing children with an opportunity to share their own solutions on how to keep every child in Ethiopia healthy, well-nourished, in school and protected.

‘BABY WASH’ boosted at this year’s World Toilet Day in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, 15 November 2017 – Today, Ethiopia celebrated World Toilet Day by holding a half-day workshop with the theme “Safe Disposal of Child Faeces.

At the workshop, the national ‘Baby WASH’ strategy, which focuses on hygiene of children under three years, was endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health. The strategy includes safe disposal of child faeces, providing protective environments through play mats and similar measures as well as prevention of soil transmitted helminths. The strategy will be implemented alongside regular safe sanitation and hygiene practices which are already being promoted by health extension workers.

World Toilet Day 2017: safe disposal of child faeces
At the workshop, the national ‘Baby WASH’ strategy, which focuses on hygiene of children under three years, was endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Health. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

In his statement, H.E Dr Kebede Worku, State Minister of Health said, “In Ethiopia, there is a common misconception that children’s faeces are not harmful while evidence shows otherwise. The current sanitation and hygiene promotion efforts, at times, overlook safe disposal of children’s faeces. In addition, most toilets are not designed keeping children’s special needs in mind. Hence, I am proud to endorse the Baby WASH manual today which was developed by the Federal Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF and other partners in order to ensure a healthy environment for children’s growth and development especially those under three years of age.”

Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia on her part said, “UNICEF is pleased to support the Ministry of Health in preparing these excellent guidelines on Baby WASH. We know that a contaminated environment harms infants and young children and puts them at risk of increased child mortality and stunting. Together, we have to ensure that parents and guardians, teachers and community leaders are aware of the importance of Baby WASH.”

According to the Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) baseline survey on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene carried out in eight regions of Ethiopia, there is a general misconception about child faeces disposal. The survey showed that a lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. According to the survey, only half (49 per cent) of women knew that child faeces are dangerous to health. Misconception is higher among rural pastoralist women where only 39 per cent said child faeces are dangerous as compared with 50 per cent among rural non-pastoralist women and 54 per cent of women in urban areas.

World Toilet Day 2017: safe disposal of child faeces
Lack of knowledge on the health risk related to child faeces is a key factor behind poor hygiene practices in faeces disposal. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2017/Mulugeta Ayene

A strong early childhood foundation, which includes a safe and hygienic environment coupled with adequate nutrition as well as nurturing parenting and stimulation for optimal brain development, is critical to ensure toddlers can develop to their full potential. This will facilitate a smooth transition to primary school and a better chance of successfully completing basic education. Therefore, investing in early childhood development through improved hygiene practices and environments is one of the most critical and cost‑effective ways to improve a child’s future health, education and productivity.

The Ministry of Health and UNICEF urge citizens, parents, teachers, health workers, policy makers and government officials to play their role in making sure that every child receives the benefits of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in their homes, communities, schools and health facilities.