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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YIRGA Gelaw Woldeyes, Curtin University

This paper introduces the concept of “centerdlessness”, the effect of Ethiopia’s Western-style education system on the lives of higher education students. As in many parts of Africa, Ethiopia follows what is commonly regarded as the ‘western’ model of education, whereby school organisation and the curriculum is ‘copied’ from Euro-American education systems. Policy makers and donors promote an education system with little regard to the question of relevance, crucial to Ethiopia given the rich and diverse traditions in the country. This ethnographic research was conducted with 30 students from two high schools and one university to understand the process of education and its effect on the lives of the students. The research found that Ethiopian students experience a deep sense of double alienation, from both tradition and modernity. Alienation from tradition is experienced largely because of the development of a Eurocentric world view through the Western education system. Students develop a sense of detachment from their local cultural identity based on the belief that Ethiopian traditions are antithetical to modernity. Alienation is experienced as students are unable to realise the promises of western education through their education system. Poor quality education, failure to reach University graduate from it, the use of foreign language as a medium of instruction and the difficulty of finding employment, contribute to alienation from modernity. The paper argues that the two forms of alienation could be described as “centerdlessness”, a sense of detachment from tradition, experiencing powerlessness and meaninglessness because of the lack of meaningful opportunities. This research offers an important insight into rethinking the meaning and relevance of education in the light of the experiences and challenges of Ethiopian students.