The Corvallis Sister Cities Association-Gondar (CSCA-G) entered into a partnership to establish a model kindergarten program in a rural village near its sister city in Gondar, Ethiopia. The value of early childhood education is becoming a goal for Gondar education officials and parents, and the 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 had no dedicated kindergarten program. Kindergarten-age students were crowded in with older elementary students in existing substandard school buildings. No teachers were available to focus on early childrood education. The leaders of the Saina Sabia kebele, along with teachers and parents, understood 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-Gand 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-G has previously worked with the kebele leadership. A high level of mutual respect and trust has developed over time. In 2012 CSCA-G funded the construction of a well to supply water to the grade school and high school. Also, CSCA-G 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 equipment and tools.
A goal was soon established to develop an 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.
In 2017, CSCA-G 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-G 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-G 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.
The Gondar Ministry of Education assisted with the screening and hiring of qualified teachers, and these teachers have participated in early childhood education training. Classes began in the fall of 2019 with a delegation from Corvallis, which included representatives from Wilson Elementary, their sister school, attending the dedication. 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.