Creating Access and Hope for Rural Students

Imagine you begin your elementary school education in a small classroom with dirt floors and no desks. Parents from the village do their best to teach reading and writing, but only up to 3rd grade. Eventually a government-sponsored school for grades 1 – 8 with classrooms, desks, curricula, and teachers is built near your village. The pathway to high school is now possible where previously no such opportunity existed.

To attend high school, you must leave your village and live with family friends in Dangla where the regional high school is located. There are still two more significant hurdles you must face in high school to graduate and continue your education at the university level. In 10th grade you are required to pass a national exam to advance to grades 11 and 12, or university prep school. And finally, you must achieve a passing score on the university entrance exam in 12th grade. After studying hard throughout high school you pass both exams – it is a source of great pride for you, your family, and your village. Your education will be covered through a cost sharing program with the government in which you will pay back 50% of the tuition once you have graduated and are employed.

Now imagine that you have come this far, overcoming many obstacles along the way, only to encounter one last insurmountable barrier – your family cannot afford the items you ’ll need to make the journey to university and be prepared for life in the city. They are already taking a big risk by losing the help you would provide on the farm and for the family if you were to stay. It is simply not possible to meet this final requirement.

It is these students that Project Ethiopia targets through our University Transition Awards program. Each year we provide a support package valued at $200 to 50 aspiring young adults who have successfully passed the university entrance exam; the top 20 highest scoring girls, the top 20 highest scoring boys, and 10 students who have passed the exam and have special needs.

At a community ceremony held each year in Dangla city, Project Ethiopia distributes a carefully selected package of items that will help support cultural adjustment from rural village to large city. The package includes:

  • sturdy suitcase and book bag
  • bedding and a blanket
  • toiletries
  • round-trip bus ticket
  • basic cell phone and minutes card
  • additional set of clothing

Since 2012, Project Ethiopia has made awards to 238 high school graduates. Beyond helping rural students reduce the economic and cultural barriers to making the transition to university, these awards motivate the recipients to work hard and stay in school. And the results are impressive. Our first group of students (43 awards made in 2012) have all graduated from university; 12 are now working as nurses, accountants, and teachers and the remaining 31 are continuing their graduate education in medicine and engineering.

Finally, University Transition Awards inspire all university prep students to work hard and dream big! From 2014 – 2016, the percentage of students who took the university exam and passed has increased each year, from 46% in 2014 to 85% in 2016.

If you have questions about our University Transition Awards or would like to learn more, please email or call us at 206-717-4300.

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