A group of Trustees visited the school in June 2018. We came away with a reinforced sense of a happy and successful school on two sites providing priceless green spaces in an intensely crowded city; smiling and alert children; a committed and loyal staff achieving excellent results with minimal resources (many touchingly home-made).
The school is running well. It has strong management systems. There is a senior management committee that deals with planning and policy and a number of other committees covering topics such as pastoral care and teacher development, and which meet on a regular basis. There is a system of appraisal and mentoring in place with four observations per year.
Attendance and lateness are carefully monitored – important in an environment where financial pressures may lead children into work or for girls, early marriage. Girls aren’t taken out of school early; those who start at the school go through to eighth grade, unless the family is forced to move away for example because of high rents.
Two young qualified women teachers, (such as Aster Shimeles, pictured right) have been appointed to head the school’s two sites, one housing grades 1 – 4, the other grades 5 – 8.
There are a number of other young teachers, many of whom attended the school themselves and were able to pick out their photographs on the boards displaying the 8th grade passes.
Other teachers have joined the staff after retiring from the public system (for example, Teshome Tesfa, pictured right) and relish the small class sizes, high academic standards and the pastoral approach.
The school maintains its success in the 8th grade exam, with no failures and results as good as or better than other Addis schools.
Asfaw Yemiru, who founded the school when he was himself a child, remains very actively involved, with a good working relationship with staff and children. He was clearly engaged with a range of areas on the school, including discipline and welfare, referred to by the teachers as such, and always with great respect. He is a continuing inspiration.
Although very much engaged in the day-to-day life of the school, Asfaw is aware that he is not getting any younger, so the administrative and educational running of the school is now effectively delegated to a younger generation.
The funds sent out are used to maximum effect. The stresses however are obvious:
An imaginative cardboard model of Bete Giorghis Church in Lalibela.
Both school sites provide ample open space, with space for playing and shade for shelter, a stark contrast with the intensely crowded living conditions. The new site includes farmland, with currently 19 cows and 16 calves.
The school started by offering an education to street children. Addis Ababa remains a magnet for the poor. Children leave rural villages and migrate to small towns, trying to help their families, and then move on to Addis. They tend to congregate round the bus stations where they arrive. Girls are vulnerable to being picked up by brokers and get channeled into unpaid domestic work or as sex slaves.
It was a heart-warming visit, leaving rich memories of conversations with staff and children and of the children participating eagerly in their lessons, notwithstanding basic facilities. On each visit, we meet adults who have been through the school and have gone on to further education and into regular employment – so different from the lot of those who subsist precariously on the pavements or are forced into migration.
There can be no doubt about the value of the work being done, and the way the funds are put to use; and equally of the need for greater support if it can be achieved.
All images copyright of Asra Hawariat School Fund