Meet Ahmed, Temesgen and Asiya from Afar, Ethiopia
October 27, 2022 by Abdusemed Mussa, Save the Children Ethiopia |
6 minutes read

Through the stories of Ahmed, Temesgen and Asiya, three students from Afar, read how a GPE-funded program is transforming the education and lives of children in Ethiopia.

The sky is the limit

Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Kassa is a bright, funny, and kind student. He is a grade 7 student at Arado Primary, in Afar, a northeastern region of Ethiopia. There are 45 students in his class. Ahmed used to miss lessons as he often did not get breakfast at home.

Ahmed Kassa
“Sometimes my stomach ached because I felt hungry. I cried and went back to the village to see if I could find something to eat.”

His father is a poor farmer who struggles to support a family of seven on a small plot of land. Ahmed helps his father to collect firewood. But everything changed for Ahmed when he started to receive school meals from Monday to Friday every week.

Today, this amazing 7th grader walks the school compound with confidence, youthful exuberance and a sense of hope and optimism.

It has been one and half years since the school feeding program was launched. The Comprehensive, Home-grown, Inclusive, Learning and Development School Feeding Project (CHILD SFP) is funded by GPE and implemented by Save the Children in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Regional Education Bureau.

The program operates in five regions—Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Sidama and Somali—covering 499 preprimary and primary schools in 13 districts. In Afar, the program covers 90 schools, benefiting over 17,000 children.

Seid Mohammed Yabruki
“School meals are a great tool to encourage education and provide food to children born into the extremely impoverished districts of our region. The kids being fed by this project are able to learn, which means they can better their lives.”
Seid Mohammed Yabruki
Field office manager, Save the Children Ethiopia

Ahmed’s transformation didn’t happen overnight. His improvement required hard work and nurturing by the Arado Primary School teachers. Now, instead of worrying about food, Ahmed is improving his learning experiences and looking to the future with high hopes and ambitions.

“I want to fulfil my dream, and I have to do it. My first dream is to be a scientist. My second dream is to be a lawyer. Hard work is the way to success. I worked to achieve good results last year and I did it; I was ranked 5th out of 43 students.”

His teacher Fantaw Kassaye has no doubt that the sky is the limit for this exceptional young boy.


When excellent is possible, good is not enough

“I was born with a disability to my right leg. This has affected me in so many ways—it affects my movement and has also affected me socially.”

Born in the town of Asaita in Afar, 12-year-old Temesgen Tadesse is now a grade 5 student at Arado Primary School. The young boy faced bullying and discrimination from an early age due to his special needs.

“At first, my family kept me out of school, but one day our cousin came from the capital to visit us. He told my dad that my future would be better if I went to school. Now, my parents and my brother and sister are my biggest supporters.” Temesgen

Temesgen started to walk with a walking stick at the age of six. After a lot of practice, he was able to stand by himself and even walk short distances.

Despite his physical challenges, he makes every effort not to miss school. He walks for more than an hour to school and back home every day in harsh weather, sometimes as hot as 50 degrees Celsius.

“I love going to school, even though the trip is tiring for me. One day I will become a doctor and a respected citizen.” Temesgen

His father is a poor farmer and didn’t have much to give to his children. Temesgen describes the impact of a meal at school every day:

“Before there were school meals, I came home from school feeling hungry but there wasn’t anything for me to eat. I didn’t feel like going back to school the next day. Now that I have lunch at school it is easy for me to finish the whole day as I don’t feel hungry. The school meals are also delicious."

Since the launch of the CHILD DFP program, over 17,000 children in more than 90 primary schools have received nutritious and healthy meals each school day.

In addition to the clear benefits of school meals, there has also been a shift in attitude towards people with disabilities, thanks to a community sensitization program.

At Temesgen’s school, parents and the school community were invited to hear about how all children, with or without disability, have the right to education.

“We talked openly about disability with parents and informed them that we are working hard to make the school environment more friendly to students with disability (SwD) by availing services such as special latrines to them. The teachers who received the disability inclusion training are here to support the SwDs.”
Habib Yassin
Principal of Arado Primary School
“The school community and people in the neighborhood have started to show us (students with disability) love and respect. My school results are improving. They are good for now, but good is not enough when excellent is possible.”

Battling with menstrual taboos

Asiya Mohammed lives in the Asaita district of Afar. She is a grade 8 student at Arado Primary School. When Asiya started her periods, aged 15, it was a shock at first. She knew nothing about menstrual hygiene because it is such a taboo in her community.

However, through their school feeding program (CHILD SFP), Save the Children facilitated awareness raising sessions on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and initiated related empowerment activities at Asiya’s school.

During these sessions, the myths around menstruation were dispelled as both teachers and students took part in open discussions around menstruation and established that it is a natural part of being a woman.

“I can talk to my family about it; I don’t have to hide it.”

Asiya feels reassured, knowing that menstruation is normal. Learning about the menstrual cycle has helped her to count the days to predict when her next period is likely to start. “That way I can prepare materials ahead of time.”

She’s now better able to ask for information, identify signs of menstruation and care for herself when she has her period. Asiya is also a member of a “girls club”, which was established at her school recently. Asiya is one of the 87,750 girls in the 499 schools who have benefited from CHILD SFP.

“The club is very useful for us. Now I know about menstrual hygiene and harmful
practices. Before, I knew very little.”

Fatima Hassan, 27, is a language teacher and is also responsible for gender and empowerment at the school. She was one of the participants in the training on girls’ empowerment and MHM, which was organized for selected teachers from schools in the Asaita district. “I got the opportunity to exchange knowledge with experts and learned about menstruation hygiene and other adolescent health issues,” she said.

In addition to raising MHM awareness and empowerment training for girls, CHILD SFP has supported the target schools to distribute dignity kits to girls at menarche and establish a dedicated MHM room that serves as a private changing corner for girls during their periods.

The program has successfully reached 118,349 boys and 104,951 girls in target schools, and students’ learning outcomes are expected to improve as a result a combination of interventions such as school feeding, awareness raising, and improved water, sanitation and hygiene families.

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