Postwar recovery of Tigray Education system

Mekelle፡ 21 October 2023(Tigray Herald)

Postwar recovery of Tigray Education system:

Challenges and Supports needed

As the head of the Tigray Education Bureau, I am writing to appeal to you to help us in our campaign to bring Tigray children back to school after 7 semesters due to the devastating war on Tigray and COVID-19 pandemic. The war on Tigray has caused extensive and intensive damage, destruction, loss and long-lasting negative impacts and consequences on the education system of Tigray and the children of Tigray who have been at the receiving end of atrocities of biblical proportions.

Before the war, the education system in Tigray was making significant progress in terms of access and equity. Thanks to the government’s clear priority, hardworking people, and supports from our national and international reliable partners, the walking distance to primary and secondary school was 2.5 and 7.06 km respectively. The class-to-student ratio in primary and secondary education was 1:39 and 1:43 respectively. For the record, Tigray Education had been one of the regional bureaus in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia that achieved great success in general education performance including meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG#4).

As a result of the war on Tigray, school buildings have deliberately been completely destroyed; school infrastructure and educational materials completely looted and burned, and the human resource (Teachers, Technical Assistants, School leaders, librarians and administrative staff) of the education sector has been severely devastated and killed, suffered to an unprecedented level without getting their salary for 2-3 year. The curriculm disarpted by the war, leading to significant gaps in learning and time. The education system is almost completely collapsed and everything we gained as a result of the hard work in the last three decades is now ruined, leaving 2.4 million children out of school and now waiting for us to bring them back to school.

With the Pretoria peace agreement, we are now working to bring Tigray children back to school, but we are facing enormous challenges all placed at priority number 1

• 1. Schools occupied by IDPs: Schools are destroyed and those left in some of the towns are occupied by Internally displaced people (IDPs, preventing hundreds of thousands of children from schooling.

• 2. Schools contaminated by UXOs: The presence of unexploded ordnances (UXOs) and other related items that are massively scattered around schools poseing a significant threat to the safety of students and teachers.

• 3. Shortage of Human power: A significant difficulty is the loss of teachers as a result of displacement and intentional killing during the war. Moreover, the lack of salary payment for three years has understandably eroded confidence in the teaching profession, leading many teachers to seek other means of income and emplyment. Due to the severe teacher shortage that has come from this, it will be challenging to satisfy the demands of the estimated 2.4 million pupils—a huge increase from the 1.46 million children we had prior to the war.

• 4. Schools have been completely destroyed: It is crucial to draw attention to the difficulties that Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s deadliest war on Tigray devastated schools in its totality. Prior to the war, we had approximately 40,000 classrooms across 2492 schools and two teachers’ training colleges, 30,000 different electronic materials including computers, printers, plasma TVs, heavy-duty duplicators and photocopy machines, and 300,000 different laboratory equipment and teaching aid materials. Unfortunately, because of the war on Tigray, all of these materials have been purposefully destroyed, leaving us with the difficult task of quickly setting up temporary classrooms (called Temporary Learning Spaces) in preparation for the reopening of schools. It is clear that urgent action is needed to rehabilitate, maintain, and reconstruct these schools so that students can continue to receive a quality education. The resource needed for this vast rehabilitation effort will be significant, and it is crucial that we prioritize the education of our children. togather, we must make ensure that the necessary funding and resources are available to rebuild these schools and provide a safe and conducive learning environment for our students. This is possible if the international community is committed enough. If 10 schools in the UK for example are twinned to one school in Tigray, within one year we can build all the schools in Tigray back better. You can imagine if you bring two or three additional countries into the equation. Urgently needed items are listed below

• 5. School kids need scholastic Materials: families are struggling to provide scholastic materials for their children. The scorched earth policy employed during the war has collapsed the economic sector of Tigray leaving the entire population on food aid and struggling to make ends meet, making it difficult for them to afford basic scholastic supplies, posing serious challenges for their kids to continue learning.

• 6. Traumatized school community: It is important to acknowledge the severe trauma that the school community has endured as a result of the devastating war on Tigray. The atrocities that were committed against innocent civilians, including teachers and students, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide. The school community was particularly vulnerable to these atrocities, and many were subjected to unspeakable horrors. Many teachers and students were raped in groups in front of their family members, while others witnessed unspeakable acts of violence and brutality at a very young age. As we work towards reopening schools in Tigray, it is important to address the trauma that the school community has experienced. This will require significant support and resources to ensure that students and teachers feel safe and supported as they return to their studies. We must endeavour to guarantee that those who have suffered receive justiceas a result of the war on Tigray.

• 7. Food Shortage: Tigray has been facing a severe food shortage due to the war, which has further complicated the challenge of reopening schools after the devastating war. Tigray has been subjected to a scorched earth policy, wholesale blockade, and siege during the war, which has led to the complete collapse of the economic sector in Tigray. As a result, the whole population now depends on food assistance, although this assistance has lately been halted. School feeding program is essential for many students in Tigray who may not have access to regular meals at home due to the food shortage. The program would make ensure that students receive at least one nutritious meal a day, which not only helps them to concentrate on their studies but also improves their overall health. Additionally, the program would also help to incentivize parents to send their children to school, especially in areas where education may not be prioritized due to the unprecedented dire situation as a result of the war.

• 8. number of students with special needs has increased to an unparalleled level.

• 9. Overaged and mixed age students are also struggling to continue their education, preventing them from staying on track with their peers and completing their schooling successfully

• 10. To make matters worse, 552 schools are not accessible to us because they are occupied by Amhara and Eritrean forces who were supposed to leave Tigray according to the Pretoria peace agreement, but are yet to do so.

We, therefore, appeal to you to support us in our efforts to bring Tigray children back to school. Your assistance will go a long way toward aiding in the restoration and revitalization of Tigray’s educational system.  . We need your assistance in:

• Fast rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of schools

• Teachers healing and development programs

• School Leadership Healing and Development programs

• Curriculum Development (catch-up program and beyond)

• Technology Support for the Accelerated Learning Progra

• E-Learning (Platform, content production, capacity building),

• One laptop to one student initiative (OLOSI)

• Federated VPN connectivity to all schools

• Data center at education bureau and mini datacenter at each school

• Mass Media (TV and Radio Broadcasting)

• Digital National Exam correction/grading

• STIMS (Students and Teachers information Management System)

• School feeding program

Thanking you for your previsous support, we appeal for your assistance that will enable us to give Tigrayan children new hope for the future.

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