Exceptional Results at an Ethiopian School

It was a day of celebration when our team arrived at The Jajura Primary School on October 19, 2015. The children cheered and the teachers boasted about the initial results of the Learning Resource Project that Roots Ethiopia funded last year! Check it out!

You Won’t Believe These Results!

The Jajura Primary School, a Learning Resource Project (LRP) that was funded in 2014 reported a 99% pass rate on their 8th Grade National Exam. Prior to providing essential resources, the school reported a 66% pass rate on this exam. The results are remarkable. The Principal, Wondimarium, attributed much of this success to the School Library which is filled with books and is regularly visited by students and staff.


Wondimarium was beaming when he told us:

“We are so proud of this library. It is unbelievable to see the amount of people checking out books. It is so popular that we remain open on Saturdays, and allow the entire village to use the books.”

There is More!

  • More girls in school! Enrollment of girls prior to our LRP  was 50% of the Jajura Student body. It is now 55%.
  • More kids in school! School registrations have increased from 2,016 to 2,213. Parents are excited about the results and are encouraging their children to attend this school. The leaders at The Jajura Primary School are committed to working hard to sustain these results.
  • Kids helping other kids! They have created a peer-tutoring group. The higher scoring students tutor the lower scoring students. Lower scoring students also receive additional materials to strengthen their areas of weakness.
  • Teacher accountability! They have created programs that hold teachers accountable for planning for success for their students.
  • Motivated students! Of the 34% of students who did not pass the exam in in 2014, 100% returned and passed the test in 2015.
  • Confident leadership! In the entire 8th Grade, 1 student failed the National Exam. According to the Principal Wondimarium, “They will come back and they will pass the exam.”
  • A successful library! The improved library is now open all day Monday-Friday. 100 students per day go to the library. It also remains open on Saturdays, a rarity in any community.
  • Regional acclaim! The school is part of a cluster of 5 schools in the region and 70 in the district. It has outperformed all of these schools and is receiving regional attention as a result.

What’s Next?

The school reported needing science materials, improved latrines, computers, and better buildings. Roots Ethiopia does not build buildings as it is out of our scope of work. However, The Jajura Primary School will be included in our hygiene and sanitation work.  Roots Ethiopia will also improve science materials and we look forward to working with the school to improve its Science Curriculum!


Read our previous update about the Jajura Primary School and contact us about leading a Learning Resource Project to transform Ethiopia’s most vulnerable communities!

Special Education in Ethiopian Schools

Roots Ethiopia will transform the current Special Education classroom at The Haile Bubamo School in Hosanna, Ethiopia. In response to several conversations with school leaders, the classrooms will receive audiovisual aids, new furniture, toys, educational cards, writing materials, hygiene materials and sporting equipment. A bright coat of paint and much needed repairs to the roof and door of this classroom will also be included.

The Best Part?

A parent awareness training will be conducted to encourage families to send their children with special needs children to school. Rural communities in Ethiopia often believe that disabilities, especially cognitive disabilities, are caused by evil spirits or are the result of a curse from God. This can prevent families from advocating for the care and education of their children. The Ethiopian Government and community leaders are trying to include children with special needs in the greater community, but progress is very slow and it takes time to change attitudes and beliefs.

How Did Roots Ethiopia Get Involved?

We heard about the Special Education classroom during our 2014 field visit and were intrigued. This past October, we visited the classroom which is the first and only government school in Hadiya zone that has a program for children with cognitive disabilities. On the day of our visit, three of the registered twelve students were there to greet us. Of course, there are many, many more children in this region with cognitive disabilities, but they are often kept out of school. Our Program Director told us that the school was very interested in improving conditions for the children in this classroom. We were ready to listen and now we are responding.

Roots Ethiopia had already worked with The Haile Bubamo School on a Learning Resource Project and we were blown away with the results under the leadership of Tagye Dube. Since our school intervention, the pass rate results of the 8th grade National Exam skyrocketed. Before our Intervention, 43% of 8th graders passed the test. In one year, the number grew to 65.1%.  The Vice Principal is motivated to improve his community. Tagye told us this past October,


“We invited the community to come and see our school and all of our improvements. All of the teachers came and students brought their parents. The parents were so motivated to see college standard books in our library, and three microscopes in our science lab. Then, we showed them we have four computers for teachers to write exams and prepare lessons. Parents were so excited. They decided to help more and the parents organized and collected 37,000 birr ($1761 USD) so we could buy a duplicating machine. Our community is motivated to succeed! This was a big victory for parents too!”

In regards to the Special Education classroom, Tagye said,

“Our leadership cares about these children. They each have unique talents and skills, but no one knows unless they come to school. Parents need to see the joy that school brings and what their children are able to do.”

What’s Next?

The improvements are underway and an outcome survey will be conducted in May 2016. This will measure the rate of change in enrollment and attendance. Roots Ethiopia will also survey the parents to measure their participation in their children’s education and their feelings about the improvements to the classroom. We look forward to updating you again later this year. We also hope to implement the second phase of improvements to this classroom in the future. If you are interested in hearing more about this project, please email us at info@rootsethiopia.org


Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

A Peek Inside our Meeting in Angecha, Ethiopia

As soon as we walked into our meeting with Sentayu and Tamesgen, the Roots Ethiopia Community Facilitators in Angecha, Ethiopia, we could sense the leadership skills and dedication to our program. These two men manage the 10 School Sponsorships and 15 IGA’s that are currently being supported by Roots Ethiopia.

Both men recently traveled to Hosanna for Program Training. Sentayu said;

“I learned many skills. Mostly skills related to learning to create jobs and setting expectations for the IGA recipients. I also learned how to face challenges and manage these businesses properly.”

Sentayu leads the Roots Ethiopia Program in Angecha, Ethiopia

Sentayu spoke at length about the IGA recipients in Angecha. He feels that they are all moving in the right direction and showed us three different bank books that recipients are using to save money. All are making monthly deposits and excited to have learned the skills needed to save money.

One of the bank books being used by an IGA recipient

Tamesgen updated us about the recent IGA training that was given to all of our recipients:

“Most of the people in the Angecha IGA Program had no business knowledge or skills before coming to the training. Now they have learned how to generate income, manage a business, and save money.”

Tamesgen plays a major role in supporting our work

In Angecha, corn, potatoes, and kidney beans have failed. At this point, they are hopeful that barley and teff will be harvested successfully in the area.

Sentayu reported that nutritional support has already been distributed to the families of our school sponsored children. Grains and cooking oil have been given to each family according to family size. He thinks that this will be sufficient to sustain them during the current nutritional crisis.

As of today, all 126 of Roots Ethiopia sponsored students and their families have received grain and cooking oil to support stressed nutritional needs. Our next initiative will involve food relief in a remote, drought-stricken village in Hadiya, Ethiopia. We are dialed in deeply to the nutritional needs of each community. Your support helps Ethiopian families sustain themselves during this critical time.

Finally, we were able to inform Sentayu and Tamesgen about Roots Ethiopia’s plan to fund a Learning Resource Project in Angecha. They were honored to add this Program and are committed to its success. Our Program Director has worked with the local woreda leadership to identify a school in the region. Community and school leaders are working on the proposal and we are eager to share it with you!

As you plan your end of year donations, please support Roots Ethiopia with a monthly recurring donation. Your end of year giving continues to give life to community-led programs in Ethiopia.

Stories From The Field | Teachers and Innovation in Ethiopia

This post is contributed by Jessica Steinberg, member of our 2014 Travel Team and Board Member at Roots Ethiopia. Jessica will return to Ethiopia next week where she will continue to work closely with school leaders to develop policy around data collection and reporting for each of our programs.


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The universality of a teachers’ love for their students is something I have witnessed firsthand as I have traveled the world. Many teachers around the world work in less than desirable conditions and are often significantly under-resourced. As a former educator, I understand what it means to have to be innovative in the classroom. Teachers around the world are often underpaid and in the US are also underappreciated. Most public schools are underfunded and lack many basic supplies. Many teachers I know spend a percentage of their paychecks buying supplies for their classrooms and extras resources for their students. Being a resourceful teacher in the US often means the difference between a classroom filled with electronics, learning supplies, and supplemental materials, versus the bare minimum of state-issued textbooks, notebooks, and some writing utensils.

It wasn’t until our recent visit to Ethiopia, that I truly saw what a resourceful teacher can do. It was absolutely awe-inspiring to see the number of teachers who took time out of their busy days to meet with us and share their stories. They spoke about the challenges of trying to teach a class of 60 students with no standard curriculum, no books, and barely anything, but benches and a blackboard in the classroom. They spoke about the challenges of getting girls to come to school on a regular basis. And, they also spoke about the challenges of getting higher level degrees for themselves which would, in turn, help their students. The most interesting part though was that they were not saying these things to complain or for us to feel bad for them (I don’t even know if the concept of complaining exists in Ethiopia.) They wanted us to understand that were able to achieve success with their students even without any real resources. This helped us understand how much more they could do if they actually had some quality supplies and resources to work with. As they each told their stories and shared their hopes and goals for their schools, there was an excitement to their tone and a spirit from within that assured us that they were doing whatever it would take to help their students and school be successful.

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At each school, after we spoke with the principals and teachers, we got a tour of the classrooms and the resources that were available. My mind was truly blown by the innovation and ingenuity that the teachers used to create resources for their students. In a strange sort of way it almost made me disappointed in myself and all of my teacher friends who regularly complain about the lack of resources in US schools. If these teachers could do so much with so very little, we had no excuses for not making more out of what we have. While we saw innovation in every school we visited there were two specific instances that literally brought tears to my eyes. They were not tears of sadness or even tears of joy; they were tears from overwhelming inspiration. We met one science teacher who showed us his “science lab”. Most anyone from the US who walked into that room would have seen some broken glass, a dusty old microscope, and some woven material and scraps with no seeming purposes. As we asked the teacher to describe what he had in his lab, his face lit up. He explained to us how he used old buttons and twine that he had fashioned into a model of a molecule.


He had also created a modified bunsen burner out of some leather, wire, and scrap materials he had found. He understood that the school could not afford this type of equipment, so he figured out a way to create models for his students to learn from. It was obvious how much pride he took in what he created. It was also obvious what this dedicated teacher could do if we provided him with quality teaching materials.

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The other impressive use of innovation was in the learning resource room at another school. When we arrived there were five teachers copying diagrams and pictures directly out of the limited number of textbooks they had. These freehanded diagrams and pictures were far superior to many of the educational posters and visual aids I have seen in schools in the US. As is typical with Ethiopians, they were extremely humble when we praised their work. I could only imagine how much time they must spend each week creating these materials. I thought about what these teachers would do with their extra time if they didn’t have to spend hours drawing and creating posters and other learning materials.

Roots Ethiopia Ethiopian non profit

This is when the value of Roots Ethiopia’s work truly hit me. By supplying schools with additional, much-needed resources, teachers could spend more time doing what they do best – teaching children. What a simple, but challenging concept in these schools. Giving teachers the resources and the time to effectively teach could have an enormous impact on students’ learning curve. I look forward to focusing the majority of my Roots energy on these ideas and making sure the resources and time have a measurable impact on the students and their schools.

Hygiene and Sanitation Initiatives in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia’s ambitious plan (<—really good article from The World Bank) to end exposure to communicable diseases caused by improper sanitation and hygiene practices in rural areas is something we care deeply about.

Lauren Werner, our Board Member and team photographer also holds an MD from Wake Forest University and an MPH (Master of Public Health) from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is passionate about becoming part of the solution that improves sanitation and hygiene for Ethiopia’s children. 

“I am interested in promoting the clear connection between sanitation and education success. I personally believe sanitation is a better solution to school attendance than food programs, excluding food insecurity times like we have now. I also want to see the maintenance of the latrines become an IGA.” – Lauren Werner

Lauren contributed this valuable overview of what Roots Ethiopia is doing to improve hygiene and sanitation in Ethiopia:

  • Roots Ethiopia works school by school to address sanitation and hygiene needs where we work (nine schools).
  • Roots Ethiopia is partnering with local health educators to understand local health beliefs and behaviors. Change must come from within the communities themselves.
  • Diarrheal illnesses spread quickly in schools due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Adequate latrines, a source of clean water, and a well-placed hand washing station are the first steps in prevention of diarrheal illnesses.
  • Our goal is not to achieve ODF (open defecation free) areas, but to support safe and effective hygiene practices that will, in turn, prevent illness so that kids can attend school.
  • Latrine construction and maintenance must be done properly so that they function far into the future. This is one of our major long-term goals that is not always addressed in the World Bank Sponsored or government funded latrines, which are built, but if they fall into disrepair then they are no longer used.
  • Girls are missing school due to inadequate facilities, especially when they are menstruating. Gender-specific latrines can help address this issue so that girls can go to school throughout the month.

Lauren Werner is running the Twin Cities Marathon on October 4th, 2015 to raise money to support Roots Ethiopia’s latrine initiatives in Ethiopia. You can support her “Run For The Potty” fundraiser on Razoo by clicking here: https://www.razoo.com/story/Run-For-The-Potty



To learn more about our hygiene and sanitation plans in Ethiopia, please email us at info@rootsethiopia.org.

Let’s Build Latrines!



Locally Made Ethiopian Desks You Have to See to Believe

Great news from our Program Director in Ethiopia! He just reported that 25 desks were delivered to The Gedra Village School which completes the existing budget for this Learning Resource Project! The quality of these locally made desks is remarkable and we are so proud to offer this update to those of you who helped complete this project. One of our supporters described them as looking as if they were from a “Viva Terra catalogue: rustic + industrial. Beautiful.” We couldn’t agree more and love sharing the hard work and impressive skills of furniture makers in Ethiopia.

Read more about the efforts put in back in October by Team Gedra! This team of families enthusiastically raised enough funds to deliver over 450 books, 6 blackboards and loads of sporting equipment to this rural school. We cannot wait to report how this school is performing in the upcoming months!

Learn more about how Learning Resources Projects are transforming Ethiopian schools by providing critical resources for teachers, students, and classrooms.

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

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Duna Sadicho School in Ethiopia is Funded!

Duna Sadicho School in Ethiopia is officially FUNDED! Phase 1 is complete and students are already using the textbooks that were purchased. Our awesome Program Director, Tilahun, was able to stretch the budget to include SCIENCE supplies for the school (this was not in the original budget!)

The goals of this Learning Resource Project were to equip the library with books, furnish the classrooms with desks and chairs, and provide structural enhancements to the school to provide a safe learning environment. Windows and roof repair will help the children thrive. In addition, schoolyard equipment will provide students with the ‘play’ that they long for!


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There were several sources that contributed to its success and we want to thank them all!

The Snyder Family Razoo fundraiser played an enormous part is funding this school in Ethiopia! Over 50% of the budget was raised through this initiative.

The Vandrovec Family Razoo fundraiser/silent auction. Both of these efforts were an enormous success. The Vandrovec’s went above and beyond to throw together a silent auction on Facebook that yielded incredible results AND it was super fun. We will post more information about how they accomplished this auction very soon!

The Long Island #GrowingMinds event was a huge success and we were able to apply a portion of the money raised towards the Duna Sadicho School in Kembata, Ethiopia. We look forward to sharing updates at the 2016 #GrowingMinds Event on Long Island.

The Roots Ethiopia General Fund contributed a portion of the money needed to complete this project.

We are looking forward to a visit in October when the entire project will be complete and we can see the impact! We are especially interested to see how these resources improve the gender inequality that is present at this rural school in Ethiopia!

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Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

Roots Ethiopia Delivers 800 Books to Jajura School

This post is contributed by Lynn Steinberg, Media and Communications Director at Roots Ethiopia.

Back in September, my family and I furiously led a Learning Resource Project for a school in Jajura, Ethiopia. It was a psychotic worldwind of tweeting, overt networking, a wildly successful eBay sale called #Bags4Books, and some really good luck. Mix that with my over the top Type A work personality and somehow $15,000 was raised in under 6 weeks for The Jajura Primary School in Ethiopia. I am STILL catching my breath!

So, what has been done so far? As of early March, over 800 books were delivered to the school! When our Program Director and his local team delivered the books to Jajura they encouraged the ecstatic students to study hard and become “brilliant and moral people.” Check out their faces!!!’

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Then, the school principal registered the books right away as you can see from this awesome photo. I met this principal in person and he is all business. I have no doubt that these books are in great hands!


The Jajura Primary School is a very special place. We thank you for your support in funding this school with what they need to achieve success. Jajura, located in the Hadiya Zone of Ethiopia is a unique community that is filled with bright smiles and progressive attitudes concerning education and female rights. Seriously, check out my post on my personal blog from December! This place is S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Overall, this was a FUN project! My family and I learned a lot about fundraising, eBay’s archaic listing system, and my need to “take a chill pill” when I have a heart led task at hand. I look forward to sharing some more updates after Meghan, the Founder of Roots Ethiopia, returns from her May visit to Ethiopia. I am going to seriously flip out in joy when I see the gender-specific toilet buildings completed. Here is the current bathroom situation in Jajura. I repeat, this is the current bathroom situation in Jajura:

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Consider reading this post from UNICEF that explains why building proper toilet facilities is so INCREDIBLY important in the developing world. Bathroom talk is a very important topic right now. In fact, Ethiopian girls miss 3-5 days of school per month, or 50 days per year, because they lack adequate supplies related to menstruation.

The Jajura Primary School will also receive locally built desks, blackboards, and bookshelves as part of this project! Thanks again for your continued support and contact us for more information about leading a Learning Resource Project in your community.

*UPDATE* Books and Shelving Delivered in Ethiopia!

In late February our Program Director delivered books and shelving to the Haile Babamo Junior School in Ethiopia. Tilahun was able to use his budget to supply the school with SIX shelves instead of the three that were planned for.

How did he do it? Local knowledge and collaboration! What Tilahun did was buy the parts for the shelves from a local wholesaler and ordered them to be cut into standard sized pieces. He then picked up the shelves personally and brought them to the school for the teachers to build themselves. He reported that the teachers were highly motivated to use their wisdom to accomplish this for their school.

Tilahun also encouraged the students to make serious use out of the donated books. He told them, “A gift is not a gift unless you properly make use of it.”

Here is a picture of the original bookshelves at the school. These were the only bookshelves before the project was initiated:

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Here are the new bookshelves that were a result of your giving, local knowledge, and community collaboration:


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Recently, Tilahun visited The Haile Babamo School and was able to deliver this amazing report,

“The Haile Bubamo school library has become very busy, seeing about forty students in the library is common, teachers are highly motivated with updated reference books, computers, and sports materials. The entire school community is working hard for the best outcomes. Hopefully, the test results will improve significantly.”

We hope you enjoy the updates of our program work as we love sharing them with you. We take enormous pride in our model of smart and strategic work, based on community-driven ideas with the needs of the children and communities at the forefront.

Please email us at info@rootsethiopia.org if you would like to hear more about leading a project like this in Southern Ethiopia.

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Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

What Causes Gender Inequality at Rural Ethiopian Schools?

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As a boy, Desta Seyoum lived a traditional rural farming life in the same Ethiopian Kebele as The Duna-Sadicho School. He remembers passing through Duna Sadicho village on his way to Secondary School giving him many chances to witness the needs of the community.

Desta, who now lives in London, just returned from Ethiopia after a prolonged family visit in the region and was able to talk to us more about inequalities in Duna Sadicho, specifically addressing the problems that girls face in the region. He is very worried about gender inequality at Duna Sadicho School, and quickly pointed out the number of girls drops even lower at the secondary school level as girls are unable to pass the required national exam to continue their education.

Desta explains:

“Many girls in the region face challenges of gender inequality that exclude them from school. Extreme household poverty, walking distance to school, inadequate school resources, lack of sanitation facilities, child labor and marriage, and female genital cutting are among obstacles that prevent girls from education. Lack of education means girls forced into informal labor market at an early age. They will never reach their potential to become positive forces in their communities, and remain trapped in a vicious circle of poverty.”

While data seems to show that gender inequality is narrowing at other area schools, the gender gaps remain a problem at Duna Sadicho. Desta feels that the gender makeup at Duna Sadicho may be largely associated with what happens in the school as well as in the community. According to Desta,

“the lower number of girls may have a direct correlation with the poor quality of resources they have in the school. It may also reflect the level of poverty and poor living standards of the community.”

Desta points out that a gender audit may be required to deepen our understanding of girls’ education in the region. But for now, one thing is very clear to Desta,

“providing basic learning resources is imperative so that girls may have an equitable chance of continuing their education.”

By providing school children with essential learning materials, Roots Ethiopia will help rectify the gender inequality at The Duna Sadicho primary school. These basic learning supplies will give girls what they need to stay in school, pass their national exams, have the opportunity to continue education, stand a chance of going to college, securing an employment and eventually becoming significant contributors to their community.

Help Ethiopia by donating to The Duna Sadicho project today! We are 40% of the way there and need your help in taking step one to rectify the gender imbalance at this rural Ethiopian School.

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.