15 Aug 2012


One chapter doesn't do justice to Abugida, it deserves a whole TV series. 
For those who are not familiar with the story, here is a quick summary. 
We arrived in Abugida in the year 2007, (we will soon be starting the 6th school year). At the time it was a small school with around 40 children and very few teachers because the Edir (the neighbourhood association which managed the school) were paying them very low salaries, and they still charged for children to attend, it wasn't a charitable organisation. Many of the children had left because their parents didn't want them sharing a school with HIV positive children. Over the years we have managed to break down this barrier and we have integrated children with HIV simply by raising the standard of living for everyone and now they all want their children to attend Abugida, without being at all bothered about them mixing with other children carrying the virus. We have encouraged parents and staff to break the taboo surrounding this disease.

The first thing we did when we went to Abugida was build a provisional kitchen so we could start feeding the children. We firmly believe that schools in Africa should start with a dining room. Many of the children ate virtually nothing all day and they carried empty bags to school. Afterwards we built the current kitchen. 
We extended and renovated practically the whole school, including the roof. We built the outdoor dining area, the new classrooms and the nursery. We installed the water tank and made a room underneath to accommodate volunteer helpers (if there are too many of them to fit into the living quarters for volunteers) as well as abused women who can shelter there on a temporary basis whilst their children are at school and to whom we give interest free credit to help them start a new life away from their abusers. 

We increased the intake of children from the very first year - there are presently around 200 - and for the last 3 years we have been admitting children aged 1 and 2. There is nowhere quite like it in the entire subcity of Akaki Kaliti or even in the whole of Addis.
We would even go as far as saying the entire country because there are no schools in Ethiopia, public or private, with dining rooms for the children. There are many schools subsidized by charities but their projects do not normally include dining room facilities. Some children take a packed lunch from home but the ones who don't have anything don't eat anything. There are no nursery schools for 1 and 2 year olds either, not like the ones here in Spain. The rich employ nannies and the poor have nothing. Mothers with babies find it very difficult to work and because there are so many single mothers, many children end up being abandoned due to poverty. 

This is what we fight for at Mediterránea; to prevent children being abandoned through poverty - as much as we possibly can within our capabilities - and because children have the right to eat and be happy wherever they are in the world. 

We practise solidarity, not charity. For us it's just a question of justice. Children are the future of their countries and even though it may seem such a small scale, it is obvious that a baby who is well fed and receives stimulation from the age of one will have a better brain.
Abugida is unique because it's a paradise for society's poorest families, and the nursery is even more unique because it's a beautiful place, the children are well looked after, we integrate disabled and special needs children (no other place does this) and a huge amount of work has gone into raising the standards of education as well as the infrastructure and facilities. For more than 4 years we have been providing literacy classes to adult women and some men, and we have celebrated various graduations of pupils who have left the school much better equipped to face the hardships of daily life. 

But this idyllic school, and for precisely this reason, because it's so ideal and is destined for the poorest people, has been the object of greed by unscrupulous people on successive occasions.   
Every now and then we have to prune the rotten branches and every now and then we are also surprised at how easily other branches go rotten. From our first representative to the last but one, they have all wanted to take their share of the school, in one way or another, some of them being tainted by their greed in really surrealistic ways. 
We have always made the rotten branches grow healthily again. Using our emergency fund to replace the money stolen from the poor with no qualms whatsoever. We carry out extensive follow-ups and we now have plenty of experience so we know exactly when things start to turn sour. 

If Abugida was a school made out of logs or mud and didn't have a monthly budget of more than 6000 euros, it wouldn't be quite so well known. We now have the full support of the "woreda" local district but because of vested interests, the constant lies and deceit and situation continues to be complicated to this day. And we've been like this for 6 years. And all of us here at Mediterránea are planning on keeping things going as long as we possibly can, because the best incentive to carry on fighting is to see the children growing strong and happy, children who would otherwise be condemned to a life of being "nobodies" and their families predestined to break up. 

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