Donga Tunto Primary School – The Inside Story

Nothing inspires us here at Roots Ethiopia more than tangible, from-the-ground-up success stories. This week we’re celebrating the BIG transformation at Donga Tunto Primary School, led by the heroic commitment of its devoted principal and 30 teachers. It was their passion and their ability to keep their over 1,600 students motivated and challenged on a shoestring budget that moved us to get involved. How much bigger of an impact could this school have for generations of learners with the partnership of a Roots Ethiopia Learning Resource Project?

Here we break down a year of transformation in the life of one magical school. None of it could have been possible without you.


Roots Ethiopia first learned of Donga Tunto when an advocate, interested in rural school development in the Kembata-Tembaro zone, reached out to us lauding the underserved school’s reputation. In early conversations with the principal there, we too were blown away by the vision and commitment of a staff operating with so little resources for their students, and the sacrifice Donga Tunto made by donating its allotment of government funds to plans to build the area’s first high school. Imagine being that generous and forward-thinking when your own teachers don’t have the standard uniform of a teacher. When Roots Ethiopia made early site visits we were moved by the energy of the community, in which teachers meet regularly with 8th grade parents to guide that crucial transition to secondary learning. Or the staff’s habit of holding regular competitions between students as well as teachers to raise each other’s standards. This was a school that with a little thoughtful support could burst with new possibilities.


Together with local educators and community elders, Roots Ethiopia put together a proposed budget of $22,000 to improve the school, including a library worthy of the kids at Donga Tunto’s thirst for knowledge, as well as the school’s first science lab. And while we set about fundraising, we made sure the Donga Tunto staff and students were already given every opportunity to elevate themselves. We provided training for the science teachers and future librarian, helped create a tutoring program for 8th graders prepping for their National exams, included their top student in our Young Scholar Trip to Addis, and invited the principal and vice principal on a three-day leadership retreat. Staff development is as crucial an element to success as any upgrade to physical environment.


It’s the power and promise of transformation that fuels our mission. And we see it lived large when we look at Before photos of the library–a closet-like room without furniture with a handful of upper-grade math and science books the staff had worked hard to raise money for over the years.

Roots Ethiopia was able to bring the library to life with non-English and English books for children of all ages, tables, chairs, and bookshelves, as well as refurbishing the space with sturdy windows and doors. Roots Ethiopia hired local laborers to convert the dirt floor to cement, and then added an improved ceiling and blue painted walls.

We helped build a proper science laboratory with lab stools and a stock of chemistry supplies. We delivered basketball hoops and balls.  All of these improvements were fueled by fundraisers on Facebook, a peer to peer campaign, and contributions from so many in our community of caring. Families and friends from Vancouver, Canada and Roslyn, New York came together united around a common goal to improve Donga Tunto Primary School. And wow, did they deliver!

A Donga Tunto teacher, expressing gratitude for her first-ever standard-issue white lab coat, told us “I never ever wore the White Coat, and my school never had the standard teaching materials, in my 35 teaching years. Roots Ethiopia realized my desire and my prayer as well.” A shy 5th grader lifted a science stool and smiled broadly as she carried it through the door to her new science room.

So thank you Roots Ethiopia supporters for making BIG dreams come true and, more importantly, for helping hard-working, deserving teachers and students like those at Donga Tunto see their very own dreams realized.


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