Ethiopia: Soothing conflict with schooling
“We have seen a lot of things here. There has been badness in the past. This village [Anderkello, Ethiopia] is prone to conflict.
“There is a lot of fighting – especially when we do not have enough food.
“Women and children suffer a lot when this happens.”
I crouch on the dusty floor next to Mujahid, the Village Leader, listening to him speak.
He stares at me intently, willing me to listen.
Mujahid, Village Leader, stands in front of the hut he built himself and tells me his story.Small and thoughtful, Mujahid pauses often, his eyes on mine.
Proud of his education and keen to demonstrate his leadership of the small village, he is emphatic when telling me about the new school that we helped to build.
“Because I am a leader I must learn.”
“As the Village Leader I settle conflicts peacefully. I use my education to help me.”
He touches the hut we’re crouched next to.
It’s intricately woven, but strong.
“I built this hut myself – it took me two years. It will take much longer to build this village to be strong but we have begun.”
We’re operating a project in Mujahid’s village, which provides monthly food rations in return for five days work (usually repairing schools and health facilities, or constructing water points).
This creates a ‘safety net’ to help families survive emergencies, like the current crisis in East Africa, and being forced to sell their last animals to survive.
Mujahid grabs me by the hand to show me the new school we helped build.
“I am very proud of our school.”
“The community paid 50% and Save the Children’s project provided the other 50%.
“Our adults are studying alongside the children. I am learning English, maths and different farming techniques.
“It was the first school here. Before the children would all be herding the animals, fetching water, begging for food.
“Now our children are fed, and they can go to school,” says Mujahid.
Thirst for learning
Under the trees outside more children are gathered, learning Afar – the local language.
The children are enthusiastic and clamour to be the first to answer questions.
Mujahid whispers in my ear, trying not to distract the children.
“Before, if a drought came we had to sell all of our animals. There would be nothing left to breed, nothing to milk or sell.
“The drought has affected us this year – look at the landscape. The rivers have dried. Animals are dying in other places.”
“But this project has meant that we did not have to sell our last animals – they will give us milk all through this drought. And they will breed again next year.
“We will be well in this drought. We have enough to eat and sell, and we all will continue to go to school, for tomorrow.”
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