16 May 2009

6/5/09 The Birhan school of Yeka

It`s been a while since I've written any information about the school (formerly named Teramaj Edir school which has been renamed Birhan school). If you recall there are 178 children, 140 pre-school and 38 young people who have never had the opportunity to attend any school. They study here for about two years until they can join a normal, mainstream school system. This project began thanks to a few elderly, retired teachers who used to give classes to the older children.
When the Mediterranea charity offered their help, the school expanded, allowing 140 more children between 3 and 5 years old to benefit from schooling.
All of these children are from economically poor families.
Now, these children do not only enjoy their education but eat three meals a day and wear uniforms.

Lately you have received very little information about Birhan school due to some very upsetting and serious problems with the school accounts and materials. We have been working conscientiously on solving this problem before providing an update.
Basically, it is our policy to provide honest information and to be totally transparent at all times.To that end I am sorry to inform you that some unscrupulous people deliberately tried to benefit personally from both school equipment and funds, effectively stealing from the children and this project.
Unfortunately, this is kind of behavior is not un common. Frequently, privileged, well-off people of certain social standing abuse their position. They take advantage of the poor, of their very own people to improve their already comfortable lives.They have not only stolen materially from their own deprived children but have morally failed as human beings which makes this situation even more repugnant. We are well aware of the need to keep a strict control over this charity and it is for this reason that I travel regularly to review the school.

In order to turn around completely the school's precarious situation the ordinary people of Yeka reacted strongly. We managed to get rid of the president of Edir (a very powerful person in this area), we dismissed our representative and the local people dealt with those who threatened the survival of this project. We have a new committee and president. We believe we are once again on track.

As an NGO we are conscious of the responsibilty we have towards both our generous benefactors (without whose help we would be unable to maintain this charity), and to, in this particular case, the 178 small, vulnerable children of Yeka who before attending this school led a life of begging in the streets to survive.

Sometimes, as in any overseas charity and despite our goodwill, we find ourselves in a situation where corrupt authorities make it impossible for us to work properly. We feel that we still have a chance with the school and with the people of Yarka therefore, from these pages we solemnly commit ourselves to this project and will never allow anyone to rob these children of their future.

If we discover any corruption or fraud in reference to any of our projects and if we can not put right the situation only then and with great distress, shall we close the doors on that project.
We refuse to succumb to intimidation, threats and even physical assault. We have already experienced this in Ethiopia on several ocasiones but we are unafraid and determined to continue with our work.

The advantage of being a NGO run by volunteers means that if any of our programs have to be closed down due to dishonest local partners then there are no unemployment issues here at least.
One day, we'll talk about the disadvantages....

We are confident that all the problems experienced in the Birhan school are in the past and that all now functions as intended; an "oasis" where these 178 children will be educated, fed and are free from the cold-hearted people who aimed to cheat them.

Due to the insecure, economic situation of the families of these children, it is our intention to keep the school open all this summer.

Ethiopia Project Manager

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