9 years ago in Soddo fair skin was a great rarity. Much was different from today.
Long distance travel was done in buses laden with people. Besides passengers buses were filled with chickens, rooftop was loaded with life stuff: matresses, blankets and packs with various foods. When one of the bundels of chicken happened to get loose the feathered ones would roam about the whole bus and they would do so until their owners destination was reached after 4-5 hours. Chicken bundles of the last passengers were tied onto the rooftop alongside the matresses where they would dangle down heads showing from the windows.
Some had an infant baby wrapped in old rags in their lap some had oli in a worn container, some a basket of eggs. Elderly in dust-hardened clothes from the travels and women with heavy bags with food who needed to go to the nearest hospital or hundreds of kilometers to a relative’s wedding or to a funeral.
Their faces clearly revealed that they were of different ethnicities. Those who did not speak Amharic made themselves understandable by gestures.
People travelling in these 40-year-old buses which barely still ran only fitted more and more people in their laps. Getting next to the window on a three-seater was like an escape from a crazy turmoil. I would have kept on enjoying this riff-raff out of curiosity but the fear of locking eyes with someones begging look made me turn my head to the right and keep looking out the window.
Usually I don’t hesitate holding someones baby or helping them with their bag but here the thought didn’t cross my mind once. Sounds from the left of me warned me that here the fittest will survive and reach their destination. Turning my head towards the window had seemed like a good idea at start but only until we reached the next village. Reality was separated only by the window. Hundreds of crazed and begging looks who had never seen a fair-skinned face before cluttered the whole view. So it was at every single stop. Baskets, rags, mothers, children and chicken to the left of me and on the right tens of heads pressed as close to the window as possible which only dissapeared once the bus had reached a speed they couldn’t keep up with. Laws unfamiliar to us applied here and they seemed cruel. The ability to analyse that situation was only possible after a couple of days when the apperhension of not being on the bus took over or new emotions clouded previous ones.
There was only one road going through Soddo 9 years ago of which one end lead to Arba Minch and the other to Awassa. To travel 150 km it took 5-6 hours.
Half dried-up rivers had to be crossed at times which had no bridge because bridges made from handy materials were simply swept away by high water.
Ethiopia today is different beyond recognition. Back in 2010 no-one would have guessed that 9 years later half the members of the parliament would be women and that half of the twenty ministerial chairs are also occupied by women. It would have sounded like a science-fiction story only able to take place thousands of kilometers away from Ethiopia.
Although education is priority for the new prime minister attending school is still inacessible to a lot of children. Studying in a state school is free but there is 90-100 children in a class and only one teacher. The classes are mainly this big in elementary school since children are put to work after the 4th or 5th grade. Half of the kids do not have exercise books and often even the pen is shared between two. The price (1 to 2 euros) for these things is the same as the food budget for a five member family for 3-4 days. A family where the only breadwinner is an illiterate mother gets maybe 8 to 10 euros of income from baking bread.PLunch with the 11th grade in 2019
How come there has been more than seventy volunteers in Ethiopia by now?
How come the first trip is followed by a second and often the third and the fourth?
Living in a welfare society we quite often expect our life to have meaning. Often the search for this meanin takes years. Sometimes it happens that the answers come suddenly and at such speed that stopping is not possible. It feels like a chice pre-made which we have no say over. Like the loving yearn towards a kitten that stems from the need to pass on love and care. Once you have the pet it needs to be taken care of daily. The comparison may seem shallow but it is a simple illustration of why the the trip taken to this country once tends to repeat itself. The direct experiences with the children in school, after school and especially in their homes has left noone indifferent yet.pBuying textbooks for school.
Now, 9 years later we can cleary see the fruits of such persistence. A delightful fact is that the learning success of the children in the program has been on a steady rise and despite their less privileged origin they have proved themsleves to be very competetive in the school environment. Three quarteres of the kids achieve good or very good marks which furthermore confirms that the donations have gone to the right place. Today we can discuss future plans with the high-school students and have them take more and more responsibilities. For the first time in the contract with a local cultural centres diner our representative is our own high-school student.p
The pupils supported by donations from Estonian are the ones with the best of results and according to national exam results qualify as future medicine or law students. The condition for the support has not been university education but to aquire skills to do well in life. Education is one of the prequisites of eradicating the problems in their society.