Grade Placements in Classrooms in Ethiopia — How does it work?

Roots Ethiopia has been asked to discuss how students are placed in proper grades in Ethiopia,  particularly in the Kembata Tembaro and surrounding region. Placement extends well beyond peer placement because of extensive delay and dropout rates.

We have asked one of our local Ethiopian advisers to comment on his understanding and experience of classrooms and student placements in Kembata Tembaro and the surrounding areas. (Note:  Some of the context of this question was set by Roots Ethiopia class rosters, in which, for example,  a 16-year-old girl is in 6th grade, and a 16-year-old girl is in 3rd grade).

Report on Classrooms, Ages, and Placement

Age is not a consideration when placing children in a classroom, that is the case in all parts of the country of Ethiopia. The government encourages families to send their children to school at an early age (normally 6 years old to begin first grade — see our white paper on education to read more about schooling).  However, it is always up to the family to decide when to send their children to school.  Families in Kembata Tembaro and the surrounding area greatly value education, and families make every effort to make school a priority. But there are many factors that influence school starts, delays, and dropouts.  Ultimately, the decisions are influenced by the family’s social, economic, health, and other factors affecting their lives at the time children are ready for school.

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(Redeit age 9, grade 2 – Roots Ethiopia sponsored student)

When a child (of any age) joins the school, the school has the duty to place him/her in the appropriate skill level, but not age level. Schools do not have the necessary mechanisms in place to provide any alternative or special education needs.

For instance, in the case of Roots Ethiopia, a 16-year-old girl in 3rd grade tells me about her strong ambition and determination to pursue school in the face of adversity.  Whether she manages to get to 10th grade depends on her classroom achievements. But, I am sure her age has little impact on that. For example, when I was a grade 10 student in Hossana high school (this was some time ago, mind you) there were 2 female students in my year: a mother and a daughter. They both completed high school, and have been working as nurses. I remember some students were older than our teachers. My aunt was my classmate as she had to drop school because of family-related difficulties. A significant age gap among classmates is commonplace, especially in the rural areas.

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(Sisay, 15 years old, 6th grade – Roots Ethiopia sponsored student)

It is difficult to assume at what age children may drop out of school. Theoretically, students may terminate classes at any stage if they face one of the problems mentioned in Part 1 of this discussion. But the most critical points are grades 6 and 8 and 10. At these stages, students may have to change schools and seek a secondary school or a high school which is normally located in a distant town center. Families have to make a difficult decision whether to send their children to a remote town.

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(Doyogena High School Library, Kembata)

It was not too long ago, for instance,  that students from Mudula town used to travel to Hossana to attend high school. Now Mudula has its own high school, but that was not the case years ago. In addition to that, the grade 8 national exam determines students fate whether to proceed to secondary school. Grade 10 exams determine again, about progression to high school.

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(Photo Credit Lisa Woll: Primary School in Tembaro)

Programs like Roots Ethiopia help students enroll in school and stay in school. And, the most vulnerable students and families get the support necessary to continue school without interruption. It’s exciting to know that there are programs like Roots Ethiopia helping individual students accomplish their goals.

(This is PART 2 of a 2 PART discussion: Part 1 is on the topic of School Delay and Drop out and is the preceding blog entry)

You can act now, and donate to any of our initiatives. Your donations help us enroll students in school and keep them there. Roots Ethiopia assists with supplies, uniforms, nutritional, medical, and psychosocial support for families and students. Our number one goal is to get kids into school and help them progress without interruption. You can check out these links:

 Donation for school sponsorships

Or this one for the Amacho Wato Learning Resources Project  (COMPLETED — THIS LINK IS NOW CLOSED!)


Why Students Delay or Dropout of School In Ethiopia — Kembata Tembaro Perspective

Roots Ethiopia has been asked to describe school dropout and delay in Ethiopia, particularly in the the rural regions where we work. We have asked one of our local Ethiopian advisers to comment on his understanding and experience of some of the reasons why students discontinue and/or delay school.

Desta’s Report on Schooling

In general, most students in Kembata-Tembaro region are keen, ambitious, and do a great deal of learning. Yet, school dropout and delay in grade progression are very common. In my view, these could be the result of a combination of factors.

The effect of family resources such as low income, limited assets, and large family size restrain parents from sending their children to school. Many poor families cannot afford the expenses of school fees, textbooks, clothing, and transportation.

(Children celebrating when new school materials arrive for their library, their classrooms, and their new science room)

Social and environmental issues such as drought, crop failure, food shortage, illness or death of a family member also force students to discontinue school. Normally, children are required to assist their parents in such difficult times.

Many schools in the region are hindered by considerable resource needs. This results in a poor quality of education which can increase the dropout rates. Inadequate numbers of qualified teachers, lack of quality textbooks and teaching materials and poor physical school facilities, such as lack of proper blackboards, tables, and chairs, affect the quality of education. Where school libraries exist, they often contain a couple of outdated books to share with groups of students.

(Science Lab in a Kembata rural school)

Poor education means families can become be discouraged from sending their children to school. Parents would rather invest their meager resources elsewhere and involve their children in farming and domestic activities. Girls are encouraged to get married rather than attending school. While discontinuing school does not bring any good either for her or for the poor family, the decisions must be made and often in moments of crisis.

In addition, geography can influence school attendance. Primary schools are located in nearby villages and teach from grades 1 to 8. However, secondary schools are often located long distances from rural homes – usually in regional town centers. Grade 9 and 10 students must often travel long distances daily or weekly. The same issue can influence decisions for students who do the hard work of qualifying for high school by passing their 10th-grade national exam.  The cost of transportation and travel time can increase the risk of dropout, especially for girls. The question becomes – is it really worth investing or traveling?

So, improving the quality of a school is one of the many important measures to be taken to advance education and to reduce the dropouts or delays in school in the region.

(Library tables and chairs being delivered to a library project in rural Hadiya)

I encourage you to involve in the various initiatives being undertaken by our friends and families of Roots Ethiopia, or other school focused initiatives.

You are also welcome to support Roots Ethiopia’s initiative to improve the learning-teaching environment by providing textbooks, desks, science supplies, playground supplies, chairs, etc. to under-resourced schools.

We always appreciate your support of our work to improve schools. You can find ways to give here:

Thank you.


(This is PART 1 of a 2 PART discussion: Part 2 is coming soon and the topic is Grade Progression)

You can act now, and donate to any of our initiatives. Your donations help us enroll students in school and keep them there. Roots Ethiopia assists with supplies, uniforms, nutritional, medical, and psychosocial support for families and students. Our number one goal is to get kids into school and help them progress without interruption.


Meet S: An Example of Community Collaboration

Meet S. She is 14 years old and in 5th grade.

S and her three siblings live together in a local Kembata Tembaro village. Despite the loss of both of their parents, the children thrive under comprehensive community care.  Their story is one that represents local solutions grounded in careful and caring collaboration.

For example, their home is provided by a local businessman. All four children attend school, each with their own sponsorship; Roots Ethiopia, Meserete Kristos Church, a local elder’s family, and another local church.  These children continue to live together and are growing up in their home community with hope and stability.

Roots Ethiopia values community partnerships. One excellent outcome of working with our field partner is the ability to join local efforts to protect and care for vulnerable children using well established collaborative community strategies. Church communities have long been the local social service providers and caregivers to the vulnerable in Ethiopia.

We are proud to be part of the caring collaboration that is sustaining S and her siblings.


School Sponsorship Campaign Underway for 2013-2014

Our school sponsorship campaign is underway! In the next 8 weeks Roots Ethiopia will raise $9120 to send children to school in the Kembata-Tembaro and surrounding areas through our school sponsorship program.

Schooling is deemed one of the top priorities of the country and is certainly a top priority for families in southern Ethiopia. Families yearn to have their children attend school. Some children have never had the privilege of school. Other families have had seasons of school followed by seasons without school. All of these families and children dream of attending school free of instability and interruption.

Roots Ethiopia school sponsorships have changed the lives of 38 kids – – – 38 kids for whom the barriers to education have been removed! Kids and families feel hopeful and assured that schooling is their present and their future. Re-enrolling our students is a top priority for Roots Ethiopia. Adding new students to our program is essential to meeting the needs of vulnerable families.

Our program’s sponsored children live in towns such as Hosanna, Hadero, Gimbicho, and Mudula.  They also live in rural locations such as Angecha, Kacha Bira, and Bonosha. The $240 annual fee for school sponsorship includes comprehensive support for students. Roots Ethiopia school sponsorships provide school supplies and uniforms, nutritional and medical support, and psychosocial support for any families facing obstacles sending their children to school. Funds also cover tuition if the children attend a private school. We currently have some students in kindergarten, and all kindergartens in Ethiopia are private and require a small tuition payment.

We want YOU to join our campaign and be part of our school sponsorship team.  Please donate today and help us meet our goal! Our campaign ends April 30 — and we’ll keep you updated on our progress via Twitter, the blog, and Facebook.

We thank you for your support and your encouragement, but more importantly, the kids thank you!