A Typical School Day in Rural Ethiopia

School is just around the corner for students in Ethiopia! As families prepare for the return to school (or may have already started) in the U.S., we would like to share the story of one family in Ethiopia who is doing the same and how a typical school day looks for the children.

Andualem and Emiye have always believed that education is one of the most important gifts they can provide each of their five children. Neither of them had the opportunity to receive a formal education when they were young. Only Andualem participated in a brief special education program for rural adults, more than 20 years ago, where he learned basic Amharic reading and writing skills.

The school nearest to the family’s home is Zagray Primary. Originally it was a tiny, two classroom school started by the families in the area. As a result of Project Ethiopia’s active support, Zagray Primary has expanded with ample space to teach children from kindergarten to 8th grade. Today, Zagray has 3 buildings for a total of 11 classrooms and office space for the school director and staff.

With the expansion of Zagray Primary, Andualem and Emiye’s daughter, Genzebe was able to complete 8th grade and is now attending high school in Dangla town. Their other four children – Melkamu, Temesgen, Zenebe and Enatnesh – attend Zagray Primary.

What does a typical day look like for Melkamu, Temesgen, Zenebe and Enatnesh? Let’s follow them through the day from the time they wake up until the end of their busy day!

7:00 am Soon after sunrise, everyone in the household is awake and getting ready for the day. One of the first activities of the day is to wash up using the water stored in a container just outside the home.
7:20 am On most mornings, at least two children will take care of milking the cows yielding between 3 to 6 liters of milk. The family own 8 dairy cows so at any time 2 or 3 are producing milk.
7:45 am Next it is time for breakfast which often consists of shiro - a stew made from powdered chickpeas, prepared with minced onions, garlic and spices - and injera - the spongy, fermented flat bread that accompanies most meals.
8:00 am Melkamu and Enatnesh leave for Zagray Primary, a 1 km from their home, to attend the morning shift which begins at 8:15 am. Many other children in the area must walk much farther, sometimes up to 4 km. Temesgen and Zenebe will stay home to help with farming activities. The family farm is two hectares of land (just about 5 acres) where they grow corn, finger millet, teff, and barley.
12:15 pm The morning session ends after 4 hours and Melkamu and Enatnesh make the 15-minute walk home. Meanwhile, Temesgen and Zenebe eat their lunch, prepare their school materials, and leave for the second school shift, most likely passing their siblings along the way!
12:30 pm When Melkamu and Enatnesh return home, they change out of their school uniforms, eat lunch, and prepare to assist with the afternoon farm activities just as their siblings did in the morning.
4:45 pm The afternoon shift is over at Zagray Primary and Tesesgen and Zenebe prepare to return home. School in Ethiopia is divided into two shifts because there are not enough school buildings and teachers to provide a full day of instruction.
5:30 pm The sun will be setting within the hour, so everyone helps complete the remaining tasks before it is dark including the second milking of the day.
7:30 pm It is time for dinner which is an opportunity for the whole family to talk about the day, plan the next day’s activities, and enjoy the time together.
8:30 pm Dinner is finished and now there is time for the children to focus on their studies with the help of a solar-powered lantern provided by Project Ethiopia.
10:30 pm It is late and the children are tired and ready for bed! It has been a busy day of learning, helping and supporting their family.

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