Educating Girls in Rural Ethiopia

“If you educate a man, you educate an individual.

If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”  – African proverb

By Kimberlee Kramer, Project Ethiopia Board Member

It’s that time of the year in the U.S. when back to school buzz is filling the air. There are advertisements for the newest fall fashions and school supplies popping up in all the stores where we shop. As an elementary school teacher, education is always in the forefront of my mind. I am constantly in awe of the human mind and our capacity to learn new things every day. On September 5th, I will welcome a new group of 4th graders to my classroom and begin the exciting journey, once again, of learning and exploring alongside these eager students.

About 40% of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 15 compared to only 19% in the U.S. There are challenges that come with providing access to primary and secondary education for such a large percentage of the population, most of whom are in the rural areas of the country. The good news, however, is the percentages of girls and boys in primary school in Ethiopia, are almost equal.

And this is such an important fact as it relates to future generations in Ethiopia. We know that in countries where focus is placed on getting girls in school at equal rates to boys, families and communities benefit considerably. For example:

  • Communities are healthier because educated girls grow up to be mothers and when mothers can read and write, they raise healthier children.
  • Educated women are better able to protect themselves and their families from the effects of economic and environmental stressors.
  • Educated women experience lower infant mortality rates. They have fewer children making it easier to meet the basic needs of the family.

Project Ethiopia views education for all girls and boys as fundamental for creating empowered, sustainable communities. We build primary school buildings in rural areas so children have a chance to continue to high school in town and then university. Because of the efforts of Project Ethiopia, 93% of rural school-age children are attending primary school in the areas where we work.

Gender equity diverges considerably at the university level where attendance is 68% male and only 32% female. That is where we step back into the system, providing university transition awards to college bound students, the majority of whom are girls. It is our hope that we can help close the gap between male and female university attendance in the years ahead. Imagine how this generation of students around Dangla will impact their country with their gifts of intelligence as they continue to cultivate their greatest tool – the human mind.

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