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, Norway

Paper presenters:

YIRGA Gelaw Woldeyes; DANIEL Gebretsadik Ayele; YISAK Tafere; TADESSE Jaleta Jirata;
TATEK Abebe; TASSEW Woldehanna; WORKNEH Yadate; Shauna LaTOSKY; Jana ZEHLE

Ideas of "development", education and the “future generation” are inextricably tied. The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) view education as playing a central role in development either for stimulating growth or for its intrinsic value in expanding the range of valued choices and opportunities. Like in many places, schooling has become a global right that people in Ethiopia hardly refuse; yet this type of education is a highly contradictory resource. Whereas the promise of schooling and its modernising ideals are vast, how children, youth and their families benefit from it is far from straightforward. Mains (2011) highlights how, due to mass schooling; young Ethiopians suffer from the problem of “educated unemployment” and Boyden (2013) cautioned against the myriad ways in which children may be dissociated from informal, albeit important, ways of learning due to the powerful ideologies of schooling. Where young people come to rely too heavily on schooling, they may become distanced from local realities, including the local social complexities of life, livelihoods and environmental management. This panel explores the intersection between various ways of education in diverse agro-ecological, rural and urban contexts in Ethiopia. We seek contributions that reveal how daily educational practices of children reflect interdependent realities of children’s socialization and skill acquisition. We also welcome papers that draw analytical attention to the significance of schooling, gendered experiences in schools as well as how education can be used to enhance the life prospects of boys and girls. How does learning in and outside of school affect the life chances and imagined futures of young Ethiopians? How does schooling enable or hinder efforts to achieve sustainable livelihoods? How do young people navigate the gap between educational aspirations and the reality of making a living in Ethiopia’s rapidly changing political economy?



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.



DANIEL Gebretsadik Ayele, Dilla University, Ethiopia

The aim of this article is to advance debates on a child-centered approach to work and school by describing the place of both in children's lives. The empirical data used in this study were gathered through repeated periods of fieldwork carried out in 2014 with street-working children in Dilla town, Southern Ethiopia. Observation, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were used to collect the relevant data. While work remains a fundamental part of children's lives, many street-working children go through a schooling trajectory. For these children, working and schooling are a mixed blessing which cannot be easily separated. Children see work as their duty. They consider work not just as a means of survival but also an obligation to their poor parents. Although they live in the shadow poverty, children included in this study need to work to make a living while attending school because their circumstances oblige them to do so. Combining work and school takes a toll on children but the children struggle to manage it. However, high upfront and hidden costs of schooling, large class sizes, dearth of school resources, lessons that suffer from narration sickness, school-based violence, excessive corporal punishment, discrimination, and marginalization founded on gender and children's socioeconomic background are conditions that adversely shape children's schooling endeavor. The potential implications of these problems include the need to provide children the social support they deserve, the need for a flexible learning approach that respects children who conclude that their best option is a combination of earning and learning and late school system suits the needs of those for whom it is intended.



YISAK Tafere, Ethiopian Centre for Child Research at Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI)

The paper discusses educational trajectories and gendered outcomes in early adulthood in Ethiopia. It is based on the Young Lives longitudinal study of a cohort of children born in 1994, the year when the first educational policy that set out the subsequent expansion of formal schooling in Ethiopia was launched. Young Lives research has shown that the children have gone through irregular education trajectories. Poverty, location, gender, and family situations all played pivotal roles in shaping their educational pathways. While the national educational data indicate that the number of girls in primary school is almost equal to that of boys, Young Lives research suggests that girls fared well in both primary and secondary education. One implication is that gender parity is achieved at lower educational levels where girls are numerically better off. Such gender parity in schools may, nevertheless, disguise gender inequality that is more visible in adulthood. The national figure is biased towards boys in post-secondary education, and Young Lives research also indicates that the gender gap is narrowing and boys are catching up fast. Young Lives research has also shown that children’s increased participation in formal education was inspired by the combination of expectations from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Ethiopian Government’s determination to expand education and the high educational aspirations held by both children and parents. On the other hand, poverty, low quality of education, gender stereotypes and the limited scope of the MDGs remain major challenges to educational achievements in Ethiopia. International promises have been renewed in the hope that these challenges could be addressed by moving from MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During this research, different policy interventions on poverty, education and gender were in place, but there was little coordination in their application in the communities. For children to achieve their aspirations from formal schooling, this paper concludes that coordinated interventions on poverty reduction, quality education and gender equality are required.



TADESSE Jaleta Jirata, Dilla University, Ethiopia
TATEK Abebe, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The debate about the negative impact of child labor on schooling has been focused, so far, on realities of children living in the urban and semi-urban settings. However, the home and school learning conditions of children who live among the agro-pastoral societies where children’s learning tradition at home is quite different from practices in school and where children are pivotal actors in cultural reproductions and economic sustainability has not been part of this debate. This paper analyzes the home and school learning realities of children, and how the interplay between the two forms of reality shapes children’s everyday life and discussions around children’s right to education. The paper is based on data generated through ethnographic fieldwork carried out among the Guji people in 2016. Ethnographic methods including participant observations, in-depth interviews, and focused group discussions were used for data generation. Twenty-five children (13 girls and 12 boys) and their parents were participants of the research.



TASSEW Woldehanna, Professor of Economics and President, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
WORKNEH Yadate, GAGE Research and Research Uptake Impact Coordinator, Ethiopia
Nicola JONES, GAGE Director and ODI Principal Research Fellow; GUDAY Emirie, Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology, Addis Ababa University

This paper explores the perceptions and experiences facing adolescents living with a disability in urban and rural Ethiopia and seeks to contribute to the current, but very limited evidence based on adolescents and disability in the country. It draws on findings from a baseline quantitative survey with 6700 adolescents, and qualitative research with over 200 early (10-12 years) and older (15-17 years) adolescent girls and boys, including a sample of adolescents with a disability, and their peers and caregivers in 2017 in Afar, Amhara and Oromia regional states. The data collection is part of the new DFID-funded multi-country Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) longitudinal research programme which aims to better understand what works to enhance adolescent development trajectories, including the most disadvantaged adolescents. The paper discusses the lived experiences of adolescent girls and boys with different impairment types (mobility, hearing, visual) who are in and out of school in rural and urban settings. In the case of those in education, it pays particular attention to the perceptions of adolescents in the governmental Special Needs Education (SNE) centres within the first cycle primary (Grades 1-4), and the educational and psycho-social challenges they face as they progress to inclusive education within second cycle primary education (Grade 5 onward). Our findings indicate that resource shortages and limited specialised teachers notwithstanding, the existing governmental four-year special needs programme is positively viewed by participants and by teachers, and particularly when juxtaposed to the absence of educational opportunities for adolescents with a disability in more remote rural locales where such services are often lacking. However, adolescent respondents highlight challenges in the wider environment including community stigma and limited awareness of the rights of all persons with a disability, inadequate social protection, limited family support, a dearth of effective inclusive education programming and limited education to employment pathways as key barriers to realising their educational and broader aspirations. The paper concludes by reflecting on the implications of the findings for the implementation of the National Plan of Action for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities 2012 – 2021 and the Master Plan for Special Needs Education/ Inclusive Education 2016 – 2025. It discusses ways in which adolescent perspectives and experiences could be harnessed to inform policy and programmatic dialogues aimed at promoting adolescent well-being and resilience, and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring that no adolescent is left behind.



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.



Shauna LaTOSKY, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle/Saale)
Jana ZEHLE, University of Leipzig
Olisarali Olibui Tongolu, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

In our last two ICES papers on education in agro-pastoral communities in South Omo (see LaTosky and Zehle 2016, forthc.), we acknowledged the innovative pathways that the Mun (Mursi) are taking. We laid focus on curriculum development, e.g., through mother-tongue learning and the application of local knowledge. While many Mun, sociolinguists and education professionals remain hopeful that the Makki mother-tongue learning model will continue and can be replicated elsewhere in Mun, questions are being raised as to how Mun teachers will continue to be trained locally and students supported beyond Munland. It also has yet to be communicated which model of education will be adopted in the three Mun settlement sites still under construction. In this paper, we look at the future of education within the context of accelerating change in South Omo by continuing to reflect on the current needs and practical uses of school education in agro-pastoralist communities. That is, why and for what purpose do the Mun wish to educate their children in modern schools and what kind of innovations do the Mun foresee? Here we take seriously one innovative idea, first proposed by a pioneer in Mun education, Olisarali Olibui, to incorporate modern technology by way of educational apps in the local language. We explore the potential of a “Mun app” as a training tool for teachers, and for adapting the national curriculum to fit the local context using global tools. Through a focused survey of the emerging field of learning and language apps for training and teaching in pastoralist communities, we look at the feasibility of such apps in the South Omo context. Furthermore, we reflect the open challenges that would hinder them from being accepted and, finally, the potential of educational apps for creating an interface between government education objectives and the education objectives of pastoralists like the Mun.