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Moving from fear to a place of security

Ethiopian teens in a small town can now attend Grades 9 and 10 in a safe place

By Ahmed Yusuf (with files from Semereta Sewasew), CCFC communications managers, Ethiopia

Student life has been rife with struggle and fear for many teen girls from Godino, Ethiopia. 

Up until 2014, youth from the small town who wanted to attend high school had to move 20 kilometres away from their families to the city of Debrezeit. It’s too far to travel daily, so some parents who earned up to US$5 per day were paying approximately US$60 per month for their child’s room and board in the city. That wasn’t the only cost — many girls, some between the ages of 14 and 17, dropped out of school due to rape, pregnancy and/or HIV/AIDS.

Shewa saw the danger first-hand when she moved to Debrezeit in Grade 9. She recalls struggling for subsistence and evading violent situations. “I know many stories of young girls being raped. This made me scared to walk alone to school. I would always check my back and wait for my friends,” she explains. “My friends dropped out, because they were pregnant; I did not want that for my life.”

Meanwhile, Shewa’s mother was working as a labourer, earning US$1 per day; she saved and borrowed to cover the US$60 it took to pay for her daughter’s food and rent. It still wasn’t enough. “I didn’t have time to study, because all I could think about was what I was going to eat, how to [get] home safely or how to get enough money for rent,” recalls Shewa.

The 15-year-old’s outlook changed when news came that the Godino school, which has been supported by the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), was going to be accepting students for Grades 9 and 10 following the CCFC-enabled construction of four classrooms and other rooms to house a library, staff room, laboratory and IT centre.

Shewa was rescued from facing the fate of many of her Debrezeit schoolmates. “Sixty-five percent of children who leave Godino to attend high school in the city drop out, and the majority are girls,” notes Alemayehu Bekele, principal of Godino High School. He’s relieved the school now accepts these girls who have been victims of abuse. “Their health has improved, and [so has] their academic performance,” he says with a smile, noting that many are rising to the top of their class, thanks to the availability of tutorial classes as well as the on-site library and lab. 

Last year, the school accepted 400 teens in Grades 9 and 10, and Shewa could live with her mother, two sisters and one brother, happily combining family life and school life in her hometown.

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About Christian Children's Fund of Canada:

Christian Children's Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-focused international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For more than 50 years, CCFC has been helping children and families of all faiths move from poverty to self-reliance. CCFC supports children and communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nicaragua and Paraguay. Currently, CCFC has almost 50,000 children sponsored, benefiting nearly 400,000 people around the world.