Nine-year-old Meskel lives in Wonago in southern Ethiopia. Her parents had five other children, none of whom they could afford to send to school.
As a girl, Meskel’s chances at being admitted into school were already low. The old school building of mud and thatch mainly served male students. After polio disabled Meskel, her opportunity at an education seemed impossible.
In the region where Wonago is located, school enrollment was low and drop out rates were high. The school was in a state of disrepair. Windows were broken and doors collapsed. There was no plumbing or electricity and only enough furniture for half of the 600 students who attended.
Most parents preferred to simply not send their children, especially girls, to the school because of the lack of quality education and the danger the school building posed to their child’s safety.
But in September 2008, ChildFund Ethiopia, in partnership with ChildFund Australia opened the doors to a new school in Wonago, Jemjemo Primary School. As with most ChildFund programs, we partnered with others who champion for the overall well-being of children. The Australian Agency for International Development also provided support for the project.
Meskel became part of the ChildFund sponsorship program, which provided her with a new school uniform and paid her fees. She was finally an official student and could attend classes regularly with the help of a special wheelchair ramp built for children with disabilities.
The new school and its students experienced great success, in part because the community learned the importance of an education for all children. The school population rose to nearly 8,000. The 2008 academic year saw the average age for enrollment reduced from 10 to 7 years and the percentage of girls in the school increased from 30 percent to 45 percent.
Parents, like those of Meskel, now know that all children have the right to learn and should be provided an equitable chance to gain an education. Meskel now attends school regularly, excelling in science. She wants to someday become a doctor so that she may help other polio victims in her country.