What Gembero Did This Summer (And Why It Matters)

Adventure and imagination are the life source of dreams. New foods, new smells, new landscapes, new voices, new possibilities. Roots Ethiopia’s focus on enriching the hard lives of rural students through education is a core program. And part of our work is showing students the possibilities for where that education could take them.

This summer Roots Ethiopia showed students that adventures in the larger world are part of their education.

We invited 20 eighth grade students, each of them a top performer at their rural primary schools in Roots Ethiopia’s project region, to commit to our eight-week summer Saturday tutoring session to prep for their national exams. Then, we then invited these ace students for a fully-funded four-day educational trip to Addis Ababa to share new possibilities.

(Gembero being welcomed by our field officer, Sammy. And, receiving a backpack full of supplies for school. )

Upon arriving in Addis, our Roots Ethiopia field staff (a male and female teacher) encouraged the students to use their cell phones to tell their families they had safely arrived. All of them accepted the offer except for bright and smiling 15-year-old Gembero, a top student at Sodo Merkato School who had never traveled outside his hometown. When the teachers encouraged him to borrow their phone to call his family or anyone in his village, he shared that he had no one to call. Gembero’s parents died when he was a small child. He has no siblings. Relatives supported him when he first started his schooling but have since withdrawn because of their own hardships.

The effort Gembero undertakes to continue his education are tremendous. He works late into the night shining shoes on the streets after school. Sometimes he doesn’t make enough to cover his monthly rent of 250 birr (the equivalent of $10) and his teachers pitch in with a small contribution to help him when they can. This fall, his teachers at a new school in Grade 9 might not know of Gembero’s uncertain circumstances.

(Every student received books, tshirts, soap, a toothbrush, dictionaries, and assorted school supplies, including a brand new Jansport backpack. They’ll start grade 9 strong!)

And yet, despite the challenges back home, Gembero was able to tour Addis Ababa’s finest cultural and academic sites with joy and wonder in his eyes. He said he never dared to dream that he would see Lucy’s bones, which date back 3.2 million years, for himself at the Ethiopian National History Museum.

Gembero took feverish notes at all of the sites the group visited, remarking that each stop made him feel closer to his educational goals. His favorite destination was Addis Ababa University where he dreams of pursuing his studies in medical science and he will always treasure the picture taken of him and the other students in front of the main gates.

(Gembero in the back row, with his peers, standing in front of Addis Ababa University. If you look closely, you can see Barkot in the front row, who is featured in our previous blog post!)

Upon his return to his village, Gembero said he couldn’t wait to share his experience with his classmates and teachers. Roots Ethiopia is so moved and humbled by the passion and commitment of students like Gembero. After learning more about him, it was an honor to let him know that he’d been granted an individual Roots Ethiopia school sponsorship so that he can worry less about affording food and a safe place to live in high school, and focus more on the classroom work that will pave his own way to Addis Ababa University. We want him to know he is not alone as he works toward his future.

Follow your dreams, Gembero. The world needs you.

Please give today to support students like Gembero.