ETHIOPIA: Salesian Missionaries Bring Education and Workforce Development Programs to At-Risk Youth
(MissionNewswire) In Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, a Salesian center provides a variety of programs designed to instill confidence and self respect to 750 at-risk youth. Salesian sisters arrived in the city more than 20 years ago. They began working with poor children and young women and opened a school. Young students attend basic elementary school classes while women are able to access two training courses in computers and sewing. The students attend classes for two years and then must pass a national exam to receive their certificates.
The center also features dormitories, classrooms, a recreation hall and a cafeteria and serves hundreds of poor youth by providing for their most basic needs of food and shelter. Wojciech Zawada, a volunteer from the Salesian Mission office in Warsaw, Poland, took part in a volunteer experience in support of the school in 2016. He is an electronics engineer and worked as a teacher.
“In one month, I taught three courses, one for teachers and two for students and graduates,” says Zawada. “It was a new experience for me, but very difficult because of the education system in Ethiopia. I taught in English, while the teachers taught me Amharic. I thank God and the people who have allowed me to be a missionary volunteer in Africa.”
The school does not receive financial support from the government and the monthly fee paid by students is not enough to pay the teachers’ salaries. The school works in large part thanks to the support of donors who support the school. Salesian missionaries are always in need of the necessary resources to buy equipment and serve young people so that they can build a better future. In one recent program, 80 people are registered for the computer course. To be able to give the course in a professional manner, teachers need equipment and support. They need cables, staplers, toner for the printer and at least one projector. Missionaries are currently working to find the funding needed to facilitate this program.
All across Ethiopia, Salesian missionaries’ primary focus is on the education of poor youth. They accomplish this through the operation of six primary schools, three secondary schools and six vocational training centers for older youth. At all these Salesian-run educational facilities, youth are able to gain an education while having access to support services, including family sponsorship and school feeding programs, that provide care for them and their families, all with the goal of keeping youth in school as long as possible.
“Education is always our primary focus,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “But we know youth in Ethiopia are dealing with much more than just having access to education. Salesian programs are tailored to meet the needs of the youth in the communities they serve. Homeless and malnourished youth are simply not able to focus effectively on their studies while they struggle to meet their basic needs. Our services provide food and shelter so youth are able to focus on the education provided.”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 30 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
The country has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children, and according to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.
Feed the Future – Ethiopia
UNICEF – Ethiopia