This morning I visited Abi Adi High School, on the outskirts of the town. This school is for Grade 9 and 10 (who attend the afternoon session) and Grade 11 and 12 (who attend the morning session). Grade 11 and 12 are in Preparatory School and are studying for the University Entrance Exam – so the equivalent to ‘A’ Levels or Highers. The school is rather large and has about 30 classrooms. The students themselves were enthusiastic and many recognised me from the English class we went to recently.
A previous VSO volunteer Elly Van’t Hul, from the Netherlands, has continued her work with the community around Abi Adi and has managed to build a kindergarten in town (Ely Kindergarten), another elementary school outside of Abi Adi, and at this High School a new library and new toilets for the students. Although the toilets are very well built, they have become blocked and are unusable. The students told me that “backward students” put rocks down the latrine for some reason, despite being told not to by the school. The new library is also very well built, and has some donated books – but as I was visiting many boxes of books were being taken to the storeroom, even though two-thirds of the shelves were empty. Also in the storeroom I saw about 20 half-decent computers sitting unused in the corner. The school doesn’t have any computers in use though. I was told these new computers are to be used by the new high school they are building on the other side of town, which looks about 1 or 2 years away from completion. So I guess these computers will stay in storage until then… by which stage maybe some more donated computers would have arrived.
The most interesting feature of the school was a plasma and satellite TV system. In each of the classrooms there was a plasma TV in a metal box, connected to a satellite dish which picks up broadcasts from South Africa . The programs are specially-made TV lessons for the students – and are particularly useful for subjects like English, where you can hear foreign voices, or for chemistry, where students can follow and see experiments which they can’t normally – there are no laboratories in the school. All very useful in some ways, and very expensive – apparantly each TV cost thousands of birr – about the same as a one teacher. Multiplied by numerous classrooms in numerous schools around the country and it adds up to a hefty sum. According to this article it was funded by an $80 million World Bank Loan. Unfortunately, there is one catch. The whole system is not working and hasn’t been for two years – not just in this school but all over Ethiopia – it wasn’t clear why but some teachers thought the broadcasts themselves had been stopped. They did add that it was good while it lasted, though it did sound like it made the role of the classroom teacher almost redundant – reduced to turning the system on and off – as almost all the lessons used to use the plasma system.
Despite all this, the High School was a great place to visit. The students are enthusiastic, and the teachers really committed to their pupils. I helped out in 3 or 4 classes today and the students’ devotion to their future studies and careers was clear to see. Hopefully I will be able to visit again soon.