The Corvallis Sister Cities Association-Gondar (CSCA-Gondar) has entered into a partnership to establish a model kindergarten program in a rural village near its sister city in Gondar, Ethiopia.

Background

The value of early childhood education is only beginning to be understood by Gondar education officials and parents, and their initial focus has been to establish kindergarten programs in the City’s most developed areas.  There is currently little public funding for kindergarten programs in rural villages (kebeles).

The Saina Sabia rural kebele in Gondar currently has no dedicated kindergarten program.  Kindergarten-age students currently are crowded in with older elementary students in existing substandard school buildings.  No teachers are available to focus on pre-school  education.

The leaders of the Saina Sabia kebele, along with teachers and parents, understand the importance of kindergarten programs and established a goal in 2017 of establishing such a program by 2019 rather than waiting for public funds to be found in some future year.

The kebele leaders requested assistance from CSCA-Gondar and our Gondar-based nonprofit partner, Link Ethiopia.  We learned that Saina Sabia has a grade school and high school, and, despite the kebele’s limited resources, student attendance and participation is high.  CSCA-Gondar has previously worked with the kebele leadership, and a high level of mutual respect and trust developed over time.  For example, in 2012 CSCA-Gondar funded the construction of a well to supply water to the grade school and high school.  Also, CSCA-Gondar assisted the kebele in establishing a micro-loan program to facilitate income generation opportunities for the residents of the kebele (most residents are subsistence farmers and do not have ready access to capital to purchase additional income-producing farm animals, crop seeds and better farming equipment and tools).

A goal was soon established to develop a model early childhood education program including the construction and furnishing of a school building that meets current local standards, hiring of teachers from the village, and providing specialized support and training for the village teachers through the Gondar Teacher Training College.  The program goals also include the establishment of a “sister school” relationship with a similar school in Corvallis.

Recent Developments

In 2017 CSCA-Gondar invited Link Ethiopia to coordinate the project.  Link Ethiopia has extensive experience in building and working in schools in the Gondar area.  A funding plan was developed in which CSCA-Gondar would raise funds in the Corvallis area, Link Ethiopia would apply for a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, the Gondar Ministry of Education would supply some materials and the kebele would “fill the gaps.”

CSCA-Gondar established a fundraising campaign and reached its goal in the fall of 2018 of $10,000 in donations.  In October, 2018, the U.S. Embassy announced that a $12,000 grant had been awarded to Link Ethiopia for the kindergarten program.  This completed the funding package.

Current Status

The building design and construction process is being managed by Link Ethiopia.  The kebele administration has set aside land for the kindergarten and will fund the purchase of furnishings.  A maintenance fund will also be established by the kebele.  The Gondar Ministry of Education has already assisted with the screening and hiring of qualified teachers, and these teachers have participated in early childhood education training.

In November, 2018, Link Ethiopia formed a committee consisting of the various stakeholders to better define duties and responsibilities.  The bidding process for construction of the building also began in November.  A contractor was selected in February, and construction is now underway. The building is projected to be completed in May, 2019.

Classes will begin in the fall of 2019.  The new kindergarten will serve over 100 children.  The kindergarten will also be one of the first to encourage participation by students with a variety of disabilities.

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