Spotlight on ADAA in Ethiopia

The great majority of Ethiopia's rural population is still illiterate, with insufficient access to primary education for children. In the Siraro district, part of the Oromia region of central/southern Ethiopia, the scarcity of schools is combined with the fact that many children work, fetching water and fuel wood from distant areas, looking after livestock, and helping their mothers in the home.

Responding to the needs of these child laborers, the African Development Aid Association (ADAA) decided to establish five non-formal basic education (NFBE) centers in the Siraro district. The centers design their schedule around the needs of local children, so that they can perform reasonable tasks for their families and still receive an education. The CIRCLE-assisted NFBEs will bring the beneficiary children up to Grade 4-level education, preparing them to enter the formal school system at Grade 5.

The key success factor for ADAA has been their real and extensive community support. ADAA prepared ahead by working with the government's regional education offices and with members of the communities, creating an understanding of the sensitive issue of child labor and an understanding of the missed potential of uneducated children. By designing the project with and for the stakeholders, they were able to gain their moral and financial support. Not only have the communities endorsed ADAA's project – they've decided to expand it, by raising their own funds and contributing money from their local social self-help community fund! ADAA has assisted communities in setting up three additional NFBE centers in marginalized locations, using the model they developed for CIRCLE. As a result, 245 more children are getting a basic education in a setting designed to meet their unique needs. Moreover, the community itself recruited three facilitators to teach the program in these new centers.

ADAA's innovation in spreading enthusiasm for NFBE centers hasn't stopped there. Prompted by the new thinking initiated by ADAA, the local government (District Administration Office) has decided to contribute further financial resources from its budget for the construction of 20 additional NFBE centers in the next two years, in rural communities with a high incidence of child labor. Literally thousands more girls and boys will receive an education, and their parents and communities will be sensitized about the limits of child labor and the benefits of education.

As part of its CIRCLE project activities, ADAA is also working in several kebeles (traditional local communities), to raise awareness about child labor and persuade community leaders about the importance of education. These communities are now and teaching their children (especially girls) during social gatherings (funerals, weddings, religious gatherings), and some are gathering resources to construct NFBE centers according to the ADAA model.

The innovation and success of ADAA in each of these instances can be traced back to its strong support in the target communities. As local stakeholders themselves, the NGO staff are acutely aware of the needs – and solutions – within their community. By facing up to child labor together, communities can mobilize to change the lives of their children. Strong local ownership makes sustainability and long-term impact very likely.