More than 2.3 million children out of school in northern Ethiopia despite peace agreement
Zinash*, 15, in the classroom of a school supported by Save the Children in Amhara, Ethiopia. Credit Seifu Asseged/ Save the Children
ADDIS ABABA, 13 April 2023 – About 2.3 million children remain out of school in northern Ethiopia despite last November’s peace agreement ending two years of conflict with reconstruction of damaged buildings yet to commence, said Save the Children, calling for urgent funding to help re-open classrooms.
Across the country more than 3.5 million children are out of school - or 1 in every 16 children* - in what has been called one of the world’s worst education crises.
Recent data revealed massive damage to schools across conflict-affected areas of Tigray, Amhara and Afar in northern Ethiopia, according to the latest report from the Ethiopia Education Cluster that comprises the Ministry of Education, Save the Children and UNICEF. The situation is particularly bad in Tigray, where 85% of schools have serious or partial damage, and all public schools remain closed.
As a result of the COVID pandemic followed by two years of conflict, 2.3 million children in the region have been out of school for around three years. 22,500 teachers have gone without pay for more than two years, according to the Ethiopia Education Cluster.
Children who are out of school for prolonged periods are at risk of exploitation, sexual violence, early marriage and child labour and lose their right to an education.
Zinash*, 13, is a fifth-grade student at a primary school in Ethiopia's Amhara region. Her family makes a living through small-scale farming and livestock. As a result of the conflict, her family was forced to flee their home and Zinash* dropped out of school for one year. Zinash* is now one of the few children who has been able to return to school. She said:
“A year ago, my family and I ran from our village escaping the fighting that broke out here. Houses were destroyed by the conflict and properties were damaged and many people had to flee the area. Now after almost a year, I am able to continue my education and I am in grade five at a nearby primary school.”
Save the Children is running safe spaces where children can receive emotional support and are encouraged to express their feelings through games and role play. The aid agency is also providing books and other learning materials to help children such as Zinash* go back to school, but more needs to be done to meet people’s humanitarian needs, including children’s education.
A UN appeal for Ethiopia is only 18.4% funded, which means an additional $3.26 billion USD is desperately needed.
Save the Children’s Country Director for Ethiopia, Xavier Joubert, said:
“The current humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia is one of the worst in recent memory. Conflict, hunger and the impact of the climate crisis have forced millions from their homes, resulting in countless children being forced to drop out of school.
“It's essential that school buildings which have been damaged or destroyed by the conflict are fixed, and that unpaid teachers receive an incentive for their work. We are supporting children affected by the conflict to continue learning, but more needs to be done to ensure every last child affected by the humanitarian crisis, including conflict, has access to an education.”
Save the Children has been operating in Ethiopia for over 60 years. The agency was among the first to respond to the humanitarian crisis resulting from conflict in the northern part of the country while continuing humanitarian assistance to the prolonged humanitarian crises in Oromia, Somali and other regions. The organisation focuses on health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection services, education and cash and in-kind distributions.
In 2022, Save the Children reached about 7.6 million people including about 5.1 million children through life-saving food, water distribution, and treatment for malnutrition among other services.
*1 in every 16 children being out of school is based on the population of Ethiopia 120,000,000 divided by the share of population that are children 46.4%, which makes the estimated number of children in Ethiopia 55.6 million and 3.5 million of them are out of school.
*name has been changed to protect anonymity
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