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Posts Tagged ‘Afar Region’

Round one in the world of proposal writing was inspired by the desire to continue the work funded in the Afar Region by the Guernsey Overseas Aid Committee (GOAC).  GOAC provided the funding necessary to build girls’ toilets at two Asaita elementary schools, and also to improve the library facilities at those schools.  In order to continue this work during the coming school year, I applied for a grant from the Alberta Community Initiatives Program.  My proposal was for a $5000 grant, which will be enough for building a girls’ toilet and improving the library facilities at another school.  I figured that since it was the first time putting together something like this, that I would start small and ‘learn the ropes’.

Round two of proposal writing has come at CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire.  The proposal is for project matching funds, as Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has agreed to match any money raised privately by CAFOD.  This time the budget is $500 000, and though the stakes feel substantially higher, I do have scaffolding because I am working off of a concept note for the project developed by the Sustainable Livelihoods team, and an itemized budget and action plan that have been prepared by the implementing partner organisation, the Oromo Self-Reliance Organisation (OSRA).

The problem addressed by the project is the lack of potable water in Oromia National Regional State, South West Shewa Zone, in the Wolisso and Goro districts by tapping clean ground water by digging new wells, building sanitation facilities, and educating schoolchildren about the importance of clean water and sanitation. Water supply and sanitation coverage in the districts is low and the majority of the people rely on surface water such as small streams and unprotected traditional hand dug wells, which are not potable, to get water for human and livestock consumption.  Essentially, people are drinking untreated water and exposing themselves to water-borne diseases.  Women and children are normally responsible for fetching water and are the most affected by the lack of water infrastructure. They have to travel long distances to fetch unpotable water for household consumption.  

Many people in the targeted districts must take showers and wash their clothes in the same sources of water from which they take their drinking water.  Until recently, most households in the area did not have either private or communal latrines, and open field defecation is still being practiced in the target area. There is a lot of work to be done on appropriate use and management of the latrines, as well as personal and environmental hygiene and sanitation.  Behavioural changes in the community are required.

Most schools in the district do not have any access to a water supply. Some rely on unprotected traditional hand dug wells and rivers for water.  Due to the lack of school water supplies, students have to look for water from the surrounding area when they get thirsty, exposing them to water borne diseases. Appropriate sanitation facilities and hand washing facilities are nonexistent in most schools. If water supply and sanitation facilities can be made available in the schools, they will be able to act as models and influence their communities through outreach activities. Through their students, schools are in touch with a large proportion of the households in the community. The provision of clean water and appropriate sanitation facilities will create an environment that is conducive to learning and teaching. If a healthy environment is created and good hygiene prevails in schools, it will lead to the development of healthy, productive and responsible citizens.

This proposal aims to tackle the problem by establishing Water and Sanitation Committees (WATSAN) which will be responsible for the overall management, operation and maintenance of the facilities. The village level WATSAN committee is responsible for the management and operation of the supply schemes.  Technicians will perform minor maintenance activities for the schemes. Support will be given to WATSAN committees to generate financial resources from community contributions. In addition, creating linkages between the WATSAN committees and water technicians from the district water office will provide continuous technical support on a sustainable basis. The project also aims to select and train hygiene educators for each water point. The educators will be community role models on sanitation and hygiene issues. The project envisages enhancing community participation and involvement in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation in the project cycle. This will help in the empowering of the community and enhance their ownership of the project at village level, and allow the changes brought about by the project to continue after the lifespan of the project.  This three year project is being undertaken by OSRA as part of their five year strategic plan to improve access to potable water in the Oromo Region.

CAFOD has a strong relationship with the Oromo Self Reliance Association (OSRA).  OSRA has built good reputation by implementing development interventions around similar community and school based water supply and sanitation projects in various districts in Oromia.  This experience has been put to use in developing this project, and the accumulated experience and competence of OSRA will be used to achieve this project’s the intended objectives.

It is envisioned that the community and schools that are mobilizing resources and assisting in the project’s implementation will be empowered to make a positive change in their community.  They will be responsible for setting up the operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation facilities.  The project will be implemented with the active participation of relevant stakeholders from the district water, education, and health offices.

The alignment of this project with CAFOD’s priorities is evidence of why CAFOD should be involved in the effort to improve access to potable water in Ethiopia’s Oromo Region:

Increasing power and influence in local communities – Supporting this work will increase the power and influence in a vulnerable community in Ethiopia’s Oromo Region.  The targeted communities are among Ethiopia’s most disadvantaged, and the Oromo Self Reliance Association will be able to influence the systems, decisions and resources regarding the management of potable water.

Promoting sustainable development – building potable water infrastructure will allow members of a disadvantaged community to access the resources they need to live sustainably, and with dignity.

Achieving peace, security and recovery – accessing potable water will equip the target communities with the resources they need to minimise, survive and recover from the impact of drought.

This project will assist stakeholders to learn about ways to develop and provide access to clean water sources.  Schools will learn about effective methods for improving hygiene and sanitation through the provision of child and gender sensitive latrines, along with hand washing facilities and hygiene education.  This learning will be transferred to local communities as they improve hygiene and sanitation practices and conditions in target community households. 

Working to improve water and sanitation facilities and empowering local communities to take over their management is one of CAFOD’s objectives in Ethiopia.  Projects such as this one are made possible through the Lenten fundraising that takes place in Catholic communities around the world, such as Project Compassion, which takes place every year in Australian Catholic schools.

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Pangs of uneasiness creep into my mind with this post.  Mindful of the fact that what I post on this blog stays in the digital universe, I do not want to sound negative because my spirits are high.  And the blog is meant to offer stories of hope and success.  It has the potential to dispel some of the negative imagery of Ethiopia that is manipulated and used by organisations such as World Vision to pull at the heart strings of people in order to move them to donate money.  I am also concerned about worrying my family.  Such is the consequence of 21st century technology.  It was a different time when Amundsen was trying to reach the South Pole.  He had no blog, but notes about treks such as his have value.  I do not mean to compare living in Asaita to trekking to the South Pole.  But a story is a story, and there are things that need to be recorded whether they are glossy or not.  The simple fact is that Asaita can be hostile, and World Vision seems like a good place to start recounting it.

In April 2011 there was an incident at the local high school.  A teacher made a student stop reading the Koran so that she could concentrate on her studies.  The student body rioted later that day as news of this blasphemy spread.  They marched down the road to the World Vision office and sacked it.  Taking control of the World Vision compound for a few days, the students took out their anger to the anti-Islamic slight on the Christian missionaries in town. The army moved in to restore order and evicted the teens.  World Vision has now withdrawn from the area.  Their smashed up compound lies abandoned at the edge of town.  The soldiers that remained for a few months afterwards guarding the ransacked offices are no longer present, and no one is much interested in it anymore.  Perhaps North Americans will notice a decline in television ad campaigns using children covered in flies to push emotional buttons.  The undercurrent of hostility here is not an organised anti-Western hostility as much as a ‘wild west’, lawless hostility, and it has manifested itself on a personal level on a few occasions.

It is well-noted in written material about Ethiopia that foreigners can expect to hear shouts of ‘you, you, you’.  And they do shout it here a lot.  Sometimes I find myself arriving home without having heard it once, and I feel like it has been a peaceful day.  ‘You, you, you’  does not have the same harsh ring to it in Amharic, I am told.  It is simply a way to try to get someone’s attention.  Sometimes people get excited about seeing a foreign visitor.  It must be noted though, that ‘you, you, you’ makes up only about 70% of the calls.  The other 30% (anecdotal stats only) is made up of ‘fuck you, fuck you, fuck you’.  I will not try to put a stat on the percentage of people who say this that actually understand what they are saying, but some do, as evidenced by the events of the day below.

On February 29th I was walking along a pathway to my home from the College when some children around 11 years old started shouting from a distance the typical ‘you you you’ that one hears everyday in Ethiopia.  I do not respond to every ‘you you you’ because I wouldn’t get home very quickly if I did.  They were also shouting ‘football, football, money, money’.  Groups demanding money or gear are not uncommon, so I just ignored them.  The shouts then changed to ‘motherfucker, motherfucker’.  Now, this is the second time that someone here called me that whilst walking down the street, and that is in addition to the periodic cries of ‘fuck you’.   I found it comforting to think that the kids didn’t really know what they were saying and I just ignored them.  But then these football demanding kids switched from ‘you you…football…money’ to ‘motherfucker, fuck you’ because they weren’t getting the attention that they craved.  They seemed to be perfectly aware of what they were saying.  Their comprehension of upping the rudeness of their language seemed evident in the stones that they started throwing at me whilst calling me ‘motherfucker’.   I ducked for cover, and danger was quickly averted.

This incident was the second day in a row that a child had thrown a stone at me.  The day before’s had been a feeble attempt of one stone made by a younger child that would not have produced much damage. But the stones thrown by the kids wanting a football weren’t that small and weren’t that far off target.

Then I made it an entire week without anyone throwing anything at me until March 8th.  Walking across the football pitch on the road connecting my home to the main road I came across an old man.  He reacted to me the same way I see locals react to the many wild dogs here.  He glared at me, and keeping his eyes fixed on me bent down to gather a stone.  I backed off.  He did not pursue me.  But he looked about as happy to see me as he would have a rabid dog.  I do not know if I appeared threatening to him, or if he was just reacting instinctively to an outsider.  He was not a friendly man.  I guess my streak of not having anything thrown at me is technically continuing because this old fellow didn’t actually release his missile.

So, I have sent descriptions of these events to the VSO Ethiopia office so that they know if I return to the capital bloody and concussed that I will not have simply been unlucky.  Well, I guess I will have been unlucky, but that it also fits into an emerging pattern here.  It is a pattern that has been ongoing since before my time, but it is not one that has been documented.  The good old internet does it again. It must be important to note patterns of hostility here.  And putting in the public sphere will at least leave a trail.

That is my story.  A lot of my wonderfully friendly Ethiopian colleagues feel badly about these challenges.  There are a lot of good people here.

May 2012

Saturday morning here.  I was just walking back from the coffee shop.  Some kids were yelling at me and throwing stones at me.  I have stopped bothering to document the number of times that this has happened here because it is a regular occurrence.

However, a few seconds later a rock the size of a baseball whizzed past my head.  I turned around and there was no one there.  I turned to keep walking and another rock of the same size came past my ear so close that I could feel the wind off of it.  I turned around and there was a lady picking up another rock to throw at me.  Some local people yelled at her and she ran away.  I feel rather lucky to have escaped unharmed.   This lady was in full attack mode.  If there hadn’t been anyone around it looked as if she would have continued her attack.  As it was, she skulked around the other side of the building she was hiding behind and tried to approach from a different angle.  ‘chigger alle’ said the man who came to stand next to me, ‘she has a problem.’  No kidding.

 

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The first order of business with VSO Ethiopia has been to create an Action Plan that outlines my role with the organisation for the year ahead.  Basically it is an opportunity to write the job that I plan on doing, and I have tried to be realistic and diligent in writing it.

The centrepiece of my project is achieving 10 general objectives.  Each objective has a more comprehensive explanation of action that will be taken to achieve the aim.

handing over the keys to the toilet

Objective 3 is ‘Promoting inclusive education and diversity in the educational sector of the Afar Region’.  The most glaring lack of diversity in Ethiopia’s post-secondary education institutions is in gender representation.  In fact, girls are grossly underrepresented at all levels of Ethiopia’s education system except for early primary.  There are many reasons for this:  work, marriage, and financial strain are few worthy of mention.  Another reason is the lack of toilets for female students.  The argument goes that adolescent girls are unlikely to attend school without having a toilet to use.

VSO Ethiopia has facilitated the building of girls’ toilet at Sinble Elementary School in Asaita, Ethiopia.  Last week my fellow volunteer Peter and I attended the ‘key ceremony’ for the girls’ toilet and the key was handed over from the contractor to the school officials.

The girls present at the ceremony expressed their happiness at having a new toilet to use.

Focus Group discussion at Sinble

Our visit also furthered achieving Objective 6 – ‘Building Community Relationships’.  Handing over the keys in front of the toilet are teachers from the school, the principal and vice principal, as well as an official from the local woreda office.  A woreda is a district in Ethiopia.  Building a professional relationship with people in the community is to be accomplished through visits to local institutions, observing the learning conditions and giving these people and institutions a voice which they would otherwise not have.

The Sinble Elementary School that received a new girls’ toilet is housed in a fairly new building.  Windows do not last long in this town.  They are not really needed as the prevent what small amounts of breeze are around from getting into the classroom, but the glass shards that are left over do not look very safe for the students.

The new school does look like a more modern facility than what was there previously.  The old schoolhouse may have had better ventilation than the new, but there is no electricity in this building and the teaching and learning resources are sparse.

former classroom at Sinble

Another planned action for completing a needs assessment of education institutions in the local region is to hold focus group discussions, and the visit to Sinble  School provided the first opportunity to do this.  Prior to the ceremony handing over the keys to the school administration we gathered with some female students at the College to hear firsthand how pleased they were to have a toilet block for themselves.  The arrival of a new toilet block meant the end of a 200m walk to some bushes at the edge of the campus.  As girls get older they get more and more reluctant to come to school under these conditions.

My contribution to the discussion was the insistence that universal female literacy is a prerequisite for development and that having half of a country’s population undereducated and underemployed is not doing anyone much good.  I encouraged them to continue studying and expressed my hope that they graduate from high school and contribute to Ethiopia’s development.  Peter explained VSO Ethiopia’s role in the project and did an excellent job promoting the organisation.

The male students at the school had noticeably more confidence (at least these ones did).

Sinble students eager to pose for a photo

Another project that is underway here falls under the Objective for promoting diversity and inclusivity in the Ethiopian education sector.  Girls are underrepresented in Ethiopian post-secondary education, and in an effort to help female Afar high school students to pass the university entrance examinations, VSO Ethiopia s arranged to fund extra tutoring sessions for the female students at the high school.

Mohammed Humphries High School

Monitoring this project provided another opportunity to visit a local institution.

The high school is in better shape than the elementary school.  The facilities in the classroom were simply desks, chairs and a blackboard, but it was a classic classroom from a bygone era.  The medium of instruction in Ethiopian high schools is English, and the students are expected to take all of their classes in this language.

old school English teaching

I sat in on an English lesson.  Since part of my mandate here is to promote student-centred pedagogy, it was a little painful to watch the teacher turn around and write two pages of a grammar textbook onto the blackboard and then to read it over with the students.  But on the other hand, the teacher is teaching to a test, and the objective is to give the girls at the high school an opportunity to get into university.

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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…

Asaita College of Teacher Education ELIC

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.

dusty-foot philosopher's walk

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.

school Vice-Principal in front of new girls' toilet block

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!

out of service classroom

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.

new school with a new girls' toilet

This is what the school looks like today.  It is a simple concrete structure.

local students

 

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.

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Afar "Afar (Ethiopia)". Flags of the...

Afar flag

the Danakil desert outside of Asaita

Perhaps because some people were trying to wind me up regarding the hostility of the Afar region’s people and climate, my arrival here has been a rather pleasant surprise.  The College of Teacher Education out here has simple facilities, but the atmosphere is one of growth and expansion.  Things are happening:  gardens are being planted, electricity is becoming more reliable, and buildings are being erected.

The people are friendly.  Students at the College are on holiday, but there are still a few hanging around the campus and they are keen to talk and say hello.  Walking through the town is also a warm experience.  People approach and say hello.  Quite a few people have been coming up to me and speaking in French.  This is because Djibouti is so close and French is the common tongue there.  The Afar people around here seem really pleased when I answer them in French and explain that I am Canadian.

The maple leaf is on full display here.  The Canadian Ambassador to Ethiopia really came through with a large quantity of maple leaf pins, pens and flags.  The staff at the College have appreciated the pins and I am trying my best to promote Canada’s image here.

The town of Asaita’s main road is lined with adobe buildings that house little shops.  There is a hotel that has a fantastic view of the Awash River valley.  It is literally a desert oasis.  It’s green and lush.  It has a sugar plantation.  There is a ton of wildlife.

My work at the College is slowly getting underway.  Today was my first day.  I had an introductory meeting with the College Dean.  There were some officials from the Ministry of Education in town that I met in Addis Ababa a few days ago and their presence got me into the Dean’s office, and my presence on the campus was legitimised.  Funding and resources for my position are coming via the British Council and all seemed content with the route ahead.  My plan is to conduct a need assessment next week.

So there are my first impressions of life in the Afar.  So ‘afar’ so good.

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An Afar home

Image by Terri O'Sullivan via Flickr

This video is an interesting glimpse into the Afar region.  The first 5-10 minutes introduce the British star and her issues, but village life looks interesting.  Those girls sure work hard.  I bear in mind that I am going to a regional centre of about 20 000, so I doubt if this is very indicative of what life will be like for me.  Eye-opening glimpse into the lives of people who come to the market though.

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