ETHIOPIA: Salesian missionaries ensure youth have access to education and proper nutrition in Dilla
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working in Dilla, a town of nearly 90,000 people located in southern Ethiopia, since 1982. In January 2018, missionaries launched an elementary school which currently serves 554 students between the ages of 5 and 12, many of whom come from families who live in extreme poverty on the outskirts of Dilla.
One of the young students attending the Salesian school is Abeba who is 8 years old and lives in a small sheet metal house in Dilla with her mother and three younger sisters. Without the Salesian school, Abeba and students like her would not be able to receive an education. The school also provides nutritional support to the students which is critical for children and families in the area.
Abeba’s mother occasionally works in a coffee field, like most Dilla adults. However, the scarcity of rainfall in the area in recent years has led to fewer employment opportunities for her. Abeba’s father went to live in Addis Ababa, 350 km further north, to work. The two times he returned, he brought his wife and daughters some money and some bags of legumes.
Currently, Abeba’s father has been away for more than two years and has not even met his youngest daughter, Berhane, who is 2 years old. All of the responsibility falls to Abeba’s mother who depends upon the support of the local Salesian missionaries to ensure she has what her family needs.
At the Salesian school, Abeba attends the same class as her sister, Tigist, who is 6 years old. While Tigist still struggles a bit, Abeba is happy to have learned to read and write. She says, “We are happy to go to school, because we are with our friends and because they give us lunch and a snack and even if in the evening, at home, mother failed to prepare food, we have a full stomach. At school we eat teff and beans. Sometimes, eggs. Once for a snack, fruit juice – so good! In the courtyard there is a fountain, and we often argue with others to drink first, but then we immediately make peace.”
Salesian missionaries ensure that youth are fed at school because many in the region lack a healthy and regular diet. Salesian missionaries operate another school in Wallame, close to Dilla, which focuses on agriculture production and breeding pigs. This program helps to support nutritional efforts in Dilla and has created jobs for dozens of farmers.
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38 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.
Salesian missionaries across Ethiopia primarily focus on the education of poor youth. They accomplish this through the operation of primary schools, secondary schools and six vocational training centers. 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.
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UNICEF – Ethiopia