“Hungry and destitute, the needy children are many. It’s hard to imagine how these precious children can live in such poverty until you’ve seen it in person. These children, dying from hunger and disease, struggle with needs as basic as food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education.
Like every human being, they need an opportunity to feel loved and cared for. Children live in garbage dumps and walk barefoot as they forage for food amongst the rubbish in city dumps. They look for something to eat or that might be of some value. Other children live in small impoverished communities and do not even have the opportunity to forage for food, but simply go hungry.
Their stories vary, but their faces are the same. They are the faces of precious children with no hope of escaping the fate that awaits them. They are unable to rise above their circumstances, trapped by a lack of education or skill. They only know one life, and without a helping hand, these children are destined to repeat the cycle of poverty in which they are being raised.”
The needs in Ethiopia are truly great.
There are so many factors that contribute to the life and health of a child, and admittedly, some are beyond our reach. But there are also many burdens we can help lift, with acts as simple as giving, volunteering, or going.
Despite developing economically, Ethiopia finds itself amongst the poorest countries in the World and is hit by frequent droughts and famines. According to a survey done in 2010, an estimated 30% of the population of Ethiopia falls well below the poverty line. Additionally, there are about 30,000 street children in Ethiopia, with 17,000 in capital city, Addis Ababa, alone. In Bishoftu, an estimated 10,000 children have been orphaned, with more still living in single parent homes, due to HIV/AIDS, poor water sanitation, and abandonment. More than half of these kids do not have access to shelter, clean water, or adequate food. They mostly survive on what they receive from shoe shining, selling small items to passersby, and begging. Many of these children are seriously sick, but most do not have access to any kind of treatment. Most of these children never receive the chance to attend school, not only because they can’t afford it, but because their time feels better spent looking for food or scrounging for what supplies their family needs just to survive the day.
This poverty and illness contributes largely to Ethiopia’s high illiteracy rate. Only 39% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write. With 45% of Ethiopia’s population being under the age of 15, it is projected that only 14.9 million of 93.8-million Ethiopians can be considered literate.
With such a low literacy rate and little proper education, Ethiopia stands little chance of obtaining
the means necessary to increase its quality of living.
Recognition of the necessity of education in improving the economy and the general standard of living has increased greatly in Ethiopia’s recent past, increasing primary school enrollment from 23% in 1993 to 95% in 2007. Unfortunately, even though enrollment has increased over the last two decades, according to the World Bank, the number of children who manage to complete a full primary school education has greatly decreased. The governmental decision to make primary education free does not solve the problem of education entirely since cutting fees addresses only one barrier to education; it does not address the social or familial obligations and other basic needs that keep a child from attending. Many students survive on only one meal a day – if that– and can’t justify going to school unless food is served because “their time is better spent finding [food] themselves” (The Globe and Mail).
The Ethiopian educational system is filled with a high percentage of children who don’t actually attend their schools, high rates of school dropouts, a low rate of girls’ participation, and a high proportion of the educated unemployed. Most of this can be attributed not only to the effect of poverty, but also due to the failure of public schools’ curriculum to generate useful skills that are relevant to available jobs and to the economy as a whole. Many of these schools fail to prepare children for the workplace because adequate teaching and learning resources are not available, and therefore unable to be provided. There is an average of two textbooks for every three students, with smaller schools having even less, and no computer skills are taught in keeping with the modernization and globalization of Ethiopia’s businesses.
So how can we help?
Blessing the Children Canada strives to provide a holistic approach to lifting the people of Bishoftu Ethiopia out of the cycle of poverty. Through our Life Sponsorship program, we care for not only the child, but their family as well, providing education and basic necessities to allow them to attend school and reach their potential. Our BCI Academy schools provide high-quality education, including teaching them skills like basic computer knowledge so they can have the best chance after graduation to reach their goals and dreams. We also offer enrollment in our Loom program to widows and mothers, teaching them to weave to provide sustainable income for their families. A total of eight looms are available for the women to use. As the needs and the means arise, we also provide other important services, like clean drinking water, healthcare, and healthcare teaching.