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September 2017

Asra Hawariat School, Ethiopia

Sara Hester

The Asra Hawariat School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a non‑fee paying, non‑religious and non‑political voluntary organisation working with those children and families who could not otherwise afford to get an education. The school began in 1961 when Asfaw Yemiru, the founder, was a 9th grade student at the British Council‑run General Wingate School. When his classes were over Asfaw started to teach local street children under a tree in the church yard next to the Wingate. The children were fed on left‑over food from the Wingate boarders. They slept in the church yard.

This was put on a more permanent footing in 1961 owing to a grant of land from then‑emperor Haile Selassie and the children were able to sleep under cover on shelves at the side of the classrooms. In 1965, when the number of students had reached 1000, the school was officially recognised by the Ministry of Education. Since its foundation it has reached and helped over 120,000 of the poorest citizens of Ethiopia's capital city. The school runs two campuses in the west of the city, one for grades1‑‑4 and the other for grades 5‑‑8.

The Asra Hawariat School Fund (UK Registered Charity 325121) provides 100% of the school's funding. It is this fund we in our church help to support.

The school admits only those children whose parents would have difficulty affording the small costs involved in a government education ‑‑ the poorest  of the poor, children from single parent families, the homeless, those with no defined source of income, slum‑dwellers and orphans.

The student body is served by 50 teaching staff, of whom 4 are qualified to Certificate level, 35 to Diploma level, and 11 with Degrees. All are encouraged and financially assisted   to further their studies and offered in‑house training. We have given them significant and well‑earned salary increases this year ‑ averaging 32% ‑‑ as a direct result of alarming increases in the cost of  living.

The school follows the National Curriculum as laid down by the Ministry of Education, with some adjustments ‑‑ English is taught from Grade 1, and science and maths given greater emphasis. Class sizes are kept small, averaging 30, much smaller than most other schools in the country. Academic progress is regularly assessed and children assisted as necessary. This year brought again a 100% pass rate in the national Grade 8 examinations. Being poor, the children are fully aware that the education offered is their one route to a brighter future, and they work hard.

One thing that the trustees of the fund are frequently asked is, "What is the planning for the future?" There is understandable concern as the school's charismatic founder gets older that there are competent people in place to run the school. The school is very aware of this and has had senior staff in all leadership roles for several years and they are doing them efficiently and competently. This is true of finance, procurement, maintenance and all other aspects of school life as well as the academic. Asfaw's vision is in good hands.

The Child Aid programme supports 57 orphans with local families. These families are supported both financially and with produce from the school's farm. The Farm continues to thrive, acting both as a demonstration farm and as a source of fresh milk and vegetables.

Important issues in health education are videotaped in Amharic and English and are used to stress the importance of leading a healthy life. Lessons in health education deal with, among other things, sex education and prevention methods for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

I have taken the above information from the Annual Report 2016  which I receive from the trustees of the School Fund. I hope to have a copy of the whole report up in the church in September. If interested do read the full report. It has some very nice photos of the students ...some amazing acrobatics in one photo.

Anyone truly interested can google "Asra Hawariat School Fund" which is there  to encourage people to donate  to the charity but, if you scroll down you will find "Asra Hawariat School Report Sara Hester"  which I wrote in January 2013.  A new website for the school is expected (hoped for) in September.

The revised school budget for  2017 has meant that the Fund is  now (as of June 2017)  sending 11,000 monthly out to the school. For a small charity , this is a huge undertaking and will require a significant injection of extra core and one‑off funding. The trustees are working on this!

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