ABE is only option for Gelan Idero’s school children

Gelan Idero ABE Centre

Children at the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) Centre in Gelan Idero.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that one of Gelan Idero’s primary challenges is primary schooling for their children. There is no official school for formal primary education in the community, but there is one alternate basic education (ABE) centre which offers the only option to the community’s 250 children between the ages of five and 11.  Built by the community itself, it is organized into three levels accommodating girls (52 per cent) and boys (48 per cent).  Remarkably, given its rustic appearance, the ABE centre does a good job preparing these students to advance to higher grades in the formal school, currently located five kilometres from the village.

Community members came together in 2005 to build the ABE centre out of wood and mud, the basic components of most structures in the area. Although rugged by Canadian standards, there are three classrooms with enough desks for the students and blackboards for the school’s five teachers.

Although teachers receive a transport allowance (a form of salary) to teach at Gelan Idero’s ABE, they are not part of Ethiopia’s formal school system and so do not receive the benefits that a regular employee would get.

“The ABE program is designed to create access for marginalized children who otherwise would find it difficult to get to an educational institution,” said Gebriel Galatis, CFTC’s Country Representative for Ethiopia.  The students study English, math, environmental science and Amharic – the national language.

The enrolment rate at the centre stands at 90 per cent, but 20 children have dropped out in the past year: 12 boys and eight girls. “This is usually due to economic reasons,” Gebriel explains. “The families have limited income and very small plots of land to cultivate, so they opt to leave the area to find better opportunities,” he adds.

This past year more boys than girls dropped out, but it is usually the other way around, typically because of a lack of sanitation facilities for girls entering puberty.  There also continue to be cultural pressures on girls to enter early marriage, and ongoing work needs to be done to educate the community on the value of girls’ education.

Once children finish Level 3 here, they move onto formal schools which are two to five kilometres away from the village. The students walk to school, carrying the food they will eat for the day, as the formal education system in Ethiopia does not supply meals for students during school.  Although in Ethiopia schools are paid for by the state, the related costs of education (food, school supplies, uniforms) are not covered.  This, plus the challenges – and dangers – of walking such distances to attend school, is a significant barrier to education for many children in Gelan Idero.

The government is currently building a new school just 2.5 kilometres from the village, which will make it slightly easier for students to attend.  Once complete, it will hold 500 students from Grades one to eight. More to come on this exciting development soon!


How far did you have to walk to school growing up – and, if you are a parent, how far do your children walk to school?  Was the distance to school a consideration for you in selecting where you live?  Did you, or do your children, face any barriers to education similar to the children of Gelan Idero?