David and I, two of the Directors of FGCF, just returned from an incredibly rewarding trip to Ethiopia. We attended the opening of a new school in Wotet Abay and we visited our four existing schools (one still under construction) as well as three prospective new projects.
Our holistic approach is proving to be extraordinarily successful in terms of progress in teaching methods, school greening, and water and sanitation programs, and the buildings are bright, clean, and will be long lasting. The approach is being recognized by the governments, communities, and educational institutions as very unique among NGO’s, and is being strongly supported. As a testament to our reputation, the head of the Education Department for the entire Amhara region (equivalent to a provincial Minister of Education – there are 22 million people in the region) came to the opening of the Wotet Abay School, along with many other dignitaries.
The Bahir Dar University has become a strong partner of FGCF, facilitating teacher training workshops and outcome measurement collection, providing a landscape architect and a forester to direct and supervise the greening of the schools, and donating approximately 3,000 fast growing, indigenous seedlings to each of our schools. The University has also agreed to fund 30% of the cost of two new projects to be built in 2018.
ICS, the international baccalaureate school that is our educational instruction partner, has not only provided teachers to give workshops, but has also facilitated a teacher shadowing program whereby some of the teachers from each of our schools shadow ICS teachers in their classrooms for a week at a time. ICS has also donated a large amount of educational materials to our schools. The effect of the teacher training program is evident in the classrooms, as many more student-based learning materials are being used and the student participation is much greater than ever before.
An expert in experiential and place-based learning, Bob Sharp, spent two weeks visiting Bahir Dar University and our schools in October, providing invaluable input into both our teacher training program and our greening program.
A Dutch NGO, ISEE, has donated funds towards a special needs program, which not only accommodates special needs students in terms of infrastructure, but also provides numerous learning materials and resources specific to their needs. In the old Wotet Abay school last year, there were 17 special needs students; 25 enrolled in our new school this year.
We also have entered a partnership with an NGO called Operation Eyesight. Under our agreement, students from the ophthalmology department at the University of Bahir Dar, along with staff hired by Operation Eyesight, will test students in our schools for impaired vision as well as eye diseases, and follow up on problems.
On a go forward basis, with the additional funding from Bahir Dar University, we are hoping to do four school project schools in 2018. Budget costs of the projects include classroom and latrine construction, books, furniture, teacher training, greening, sports equipment, and water and sanitation programs.