Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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TATEK Abebe, Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology

This paper focuses on the livelihood activities and learning experiences of young people who come of age in the cash economy in southern Ethiopia. The paper historicizes how a shift in the livelihood of peasant households from subsistence agriculture to cash crop production altered priorities and practices of children’s laboring and learning. Drawing on research on the generational implications of development on young Ethiopians, the paper explores how children learn to labor in "agricultural entrepreneurship” that involves the production, processing and circulation of cash crops including coffee, the main stay of their national economy. The paper identifies and engages with two forms of disjuncture: between agricultural work-cycles and participation in schools on the one hand and, on the other, between young people’s future aspirations and the realities of formal job markets. Schools provide children with a world view that is an antipode to the rural way of life while simultaneously educating them with skills that are “irrelevant” to pursue a livelihood within the local reality. Schools may not always necessarily complement (informal) learning and the material world practice. Rupture in learning are also underpinned by the privileging of academic knowledge over learning by laboring, and the “credentialization” of society (Crivello 2011), which valorize school knowledge as opposed to learning in other arenas of life. In explaining the above disjuncture, the paper provides some policy implications regarding ongoing debates on problem-solving education and educational reforms in Ethiopia.