(MissionNewswire) The recent announcement of Ethiopia’s goal to expand its budget by 22 percent to fight poverty in its quickly growing economy caused critics to charge that growth has not filtered down to the poor, according to news reports from Reuters on June 11.
As politicians work to introduce plans for a better Ethiopia, a unique program is already addressing issues of hunger and education on the streets of Addis Ababa. Through Donato’s Children of the Beggars program founded by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Mekanissa, Ethiopia, parents who survive by begging on the street are able to send their children to school to receive basic education and skills training support services.
According to UNICEF, approximately 72 percent of school-age children in Ethiopia have no access to formal education, and while education is free, many families do not have the economic resources to send their children to school.
“For children whose parents are already begging on the street, education seems like a dream,” says Brother Cesare Bullo, director of the Project Development Office for the Salesians of Don Bosco in Ethiopia. “Our goal is to reach children who are living in dangerous situations. Our first step is to connect with the parents and guardians to introduce the value of education and how it can lead to a better life for their children – something every parent wants.”
The program staff includes social workers who do outreach to convince parents that an education will provide long-term benefits for the child and family, even though the family may rely on the child to work in the street to provide a portion of the family income.
Once enrolled in the program, children are tutored in basic literacy and math skills so that they may join the formal education system, while adolescents receive jobs training in marketable skills that will help provide for them and their families.
“Our program also includes meals to provide added incentive for the children to study and for parents to continue to encourage their children to attend classes,” says Br. Bullo. “We are committed to keeping the children in the program and by including meals, the program represents a daily benefit to the family.”
Currently, 513 children are enrolled in this program which began in 1998. The Salesians of Don Bosco in Ethiopia have been working with the most vulnerable children and youth since 1975 with a focus on primary and secondary educational services. Salesians also carry out development initiatives providing support in the areas of food security, access to water and illness prevention, health, emergency assistance and agriculture.
PHOTO: Adam Rudin / SALESIAN MISSIONS