Written by Hannah Dillon
It was with great anticipation that we arrived in Gondar, our base for the coming months and a historical city located in Ethiopia’s Northern highlands. Apart from the extensive castle complex, the main things we had heard about before arriving were the excellent fish and chips at AG Hotel (from Matt at Link) and the entertaining Northern accent of the inhabitants (from the Bishoftu office staff). Suffice to say, Gondar, and the Amhara region in which it is situated, has much more to offer than this. Though I must say the fish and chips are good (we have had them twice already).
We spent our first Sunday pounding the streets, getting a feel for the place and chatting to a few local people. We were welcomed by our country director Gash Belayneh who offered us coffee (of course) and made us feel at home.
My first impression of Gondar was that it was a busy and bustling small town with a friendly atmosphere. The locals are very used to Western tourists; which can have good and bad sides!
We were very glad to find that there are three other UK volunteers staying in our accommodation: two gap year students teaching at their partner school, Anghareb, and one architect from London who is working with Link and St. George’s School (more about this later).
On Monday it was straight to work on our Libraries and Literacy project. Having completed the research and teacher training in Bishoftu, it is now my task to gather baseline data before starting the teacher training in this region. So this saw me visiting the first three of twelve schools this week, where we were testing Grade 1 and 2 students on their reading skills. Once I have trained the teachers and supported them throughout the year, we will see what impact this training has had on reading levels.
This week we were also lucky enough to visit the newly-opened St. George’s School in Azezo near Gondar. The ambitious task of building a brand new school for orphans and vulnerable children was mounted by the Northwood African Education Foundation, based at Broomwood Hall School in London. Rory came here last year to see the building site, so to see it up and running and full of children learning was very exciting. Having spent some time in different government and private schools in Ethiopia already, I was blown away by what everyone had achieved in building and setting up this school.
Click here for more information about the project: http://linkethiopia.org/projects/partnerships/broomwoodafricaneducationfoundation/
It was a joy to see children enjoying quality education and the lower grades learning through play. I was encouraged to see that the school is using phonics to teach English and the teachers reported that the children love its interactive and kinaesthetic approach which means they are learning to read English rapidly. I hope our Libraries and Literacy project can have the same affect in other Ethiopian schools and in government schools in particular.
Ethiopia continues to surprise and delight me. The excitements on the horizon are the Great Ethiopian 10K Run on 23rd November for which we are travelling to Addis to take part with over 40,000 other runners (or walkers/joggers in my case!); a trip around the castle complex here in Gondar and perhaps a trip to another nearby site. With only six weeks to go until we come back for Christmas we have a lot to pack in!