It is early days here in Asaita. The first few days have been spent touring around my College and the local area. I have been busy performing administrative tasks such as opening a bank account, learning my way to the College and trying to avoid getting lost in a warren of little mud houses. But here is my place of work…
Welcome to Asaita College of Teacher Education! This building is the library and it houses the English Language Improvement Centre (ELIC). I will take over as the ELIC Coordinator when the current volunteer finishes his placement in the next couple of months. The ELIC is currently housed in the College library, but efforts are underway to move the ELIC to a part of the College not designated as a quiet study place. The staff in the library is very strict about the noise levels and the location is not really conducive to speaking English.
The ELIC will engage in activities to strengthen the capacity of English teachers in the Ethiopian education system. Student-teachers will attend English classes and be introduced to student-centred approaches to teaching English. Likewise, the instructors at the College will be encouraged to attend lesson designed to promote student-centred pedagogy.
This is the walk to work. Mud is the most common construction material. Whilst mud may not be the most attractive of building materials it does come with the advantage of being cool. My concrete house releases its heat at night, so I sleep outside to avoid the oven which is my home. It is February here, but it is heating up. Afternoon temperatures break 35 degrees. Electricity has been off most of the past 3 days, so there are no fans; only shade. The adage ‘but it’s a dry heat,” does not apply.
This picture is of a school toilet block. The school is part of the cluster associated with the Asaita College of Teacher Education. There is a lack of toilets for girls in Ethiopian schools, and this contributes to the dropout rate among female students in Ethiopia. The volunteer that I am taking over from has been overseeing the project to build this toilet. Asaita really is the edge of humanity. Ethiopia is a poor country. Asaita is in Ethiopia’s Afar region, and it is considered to be one of the poorest parts of Ethiopia. The teacher’s college where I work does not have any toilets for men or women!
This is the old school. It has recently been replaced, but it has not been out of use for more than a couple of years. Obviously there is a lot of work to be done here. This classroom will be of limited use for achieving what Canadian teachers would call effective learning. Keep in mind that the students have no money for school supplies and the teachers are not supported with more than chalk. Girls are often married before they are 15. They are often betrothed at a much younger age.
This is what the school looks like today. It is a simple concrete structure.
Though it was a Saturday, these students were hanging around the school. They were eager to be photographed and had some serious poses well-rehearsed.
So begins my needs assessment for Asaita’s education sector. The list is going to be long. And getting the schools and the College the resources that they need will likely be fraught with challenges.