In the village of Sugula, the Speed School classroom is very typical of the region, made with traditional red mud. Several parents sit in on the classes, participating fully in the lessons. They are so proud to have a school in their village and even prouder to have their children as pupils there. The concentration in the Speed School in Sugula is incredible, and the teacher is so good at making the children interested
Bintou says, 'I love school. I thought I would never go to school because it is very expensive and it is too far away. Before Speed School, there was no school in our village. I also have to participate in home duties but now that I go to school, I have fewer duties.'
In Ethiopia most of the children are forced to work around the home or in the towns and villages, shining shoes, selling lottery tickets, or working in cafes and shops.
At 13 Takola had never been to school. His mother, Yeshi, is a potter and his father, Barassa, helps with the pottery business and farms.
Takola’s teacher Wogene said: 'Before Speed School started, Takola was out of school and had no education. He now has the opportunity of an education. He is becoming literate and numerate now. Before this, his parents could not afford to provide the pen and books needed for government school.'
It only requires a very small seed fund of around $15 - $25 for women to be able to start their own businesses and grow them relatively quickly which creates a wider community impact.
In Morecho District, Sheto's son Baraket finished Speed School last year. Sheto runs a coffee shop, which she opened six months ago with a seed fund of 380 Birr. She says, ‘Our lifestyle has definitely improved since starting my own business. Before this my son had no opportunity and his life would have been very difficult. Now he wants to be a doctor. Before this opportunity, none of my children went to school. Now, they all go. I also have two children living with me who help with the business and I give them food and board in return. Now I am able to share my good fortune with others. Eventually I would like to run a general store.’
Women who have been running their businesses for a while now send all of their children to school. In contrast, women and children just joining the project often have all their children at home apart from the one in Speed School.
Parents of out-of-school children have the same hopes for their children as we do. They want them to be able to afford to feed a family and to be able to get medical help if they are sick. They hope that the next generation will achieve more than their own.
Meselech and Markos live with their children in Aleta Chuko. They work on their land, which provides all their food. They also sell some crops to buy sugar and salt. Meselech and her family’s lives have improved considerably since her daughter Selamaw took part in the Speed School program. Meselech says, ‘My daughter’s behavior has changed since she went to school. Selamaw studies at home and can now write the family’s names. She has exercise books, a pen, a pencil, and a razor for sharpening the pencil. She has textbooks for the first time. My daughter will definitely go on to the government school when she finishes Speed School. I have saved 55 Birr and when I get my seed fund I want to sell crops and make flour to sell at market.’
The Speed School classes look and sound very different from the government classrooms. The walls are covered in pictures and posters, and the children are encouraged to answer questions. This all sounds very normal to anyone educated in the West but is in stark contrast to government school classrooms, often packed with 70 plus students, where the children spend most of their time copying down text from a blackboard.
Wogene became a volunteer to help out-of-school children. He says, 'these children are from my community and are like my brothers and sisters, and I want to help them.'