Since last December, Silenat Alem, has been principal at Filiklik Elementary School located in the rural area of Bahar Dar, in the northeast of Ethiopia.
A former teacher, Silenat is among the Ethiopian women who recently became school principals, as a result of a GPE program that supported the transition of women from teaching to leadership positions.
Silenat shares why she became a teacher:
As a young teacher, Silenat thought that:
The General Education Quality Improvement Program (GEQIP), a multi-donor fund to which GPE contributes, was established to improve the quality of teaching and learning within Ethiopia’s 40,000 schools. Among the challenges GEQIP sought to address was the low number of women in leadership positions across the country.
The importance of women in leadership positions
Traditionally, in Ethiopia, school leadership roles have been male dominated – this means that girls don’t have the opportunity to look up to women as role models and become encouraged to choose careers as leaders and decision-makers.
Women in education leadership positions encourage girls to enroll and stay in school. Additionally, they help reassure parents that schools are a safe and welcoming environment for their children.
In an effort to increase equity within the profession and to capitalize on its effect on the school environment, the Teachers and Education Leaders Development (TELD) program was developed with GPE funding.
Silenat attended the TELD program over the summer 2018, during which she acquired skills such as how to best negotiate in the workplace or effective ways to provide feedback to colleagues and subordinates.
The training program consisted of a two-month summer course, bridged by one distance program. This program was available to:
- Existing primary teachers, primary school directors, and primary school principals with first degrees, making them eligible as supervisors;
- Existing secondary teachers with a master’s degree making them eligible to become directors;
- Existing secondary directors making them eligible to become supervisors.
GEQIP funds supported tutorials and examination sessions for the school leadership preparatory program conducted as part of the distance program.
Challenges remain for female principals
For Silenat, being a principal has presented its own set of challenges:
The female leadership program has helped improve gender balance in school leadership by increasing the number of trained female primary school principals. Now more women in leadership roles serve as an inspiration to young girls and open the path for others to follow in their footsteps.