School children in Ethiopia - a child from Cape Verde on the streets
Watching students run between classes at the SOS School in Mekelle in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, I was struck by how beautiful the setting for their education is.
- “Raising standards in learning: The SOS school in Mekelle”
Sophie Guthrie, a Masters student who recently visited Ethiopia to research education provision
Watching students run between classes at the SOS School in Mekelle in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, I was struck by how beautiful the setting for their education is .
An impressive mountain view, and a spacious campus, decorated with flower beds, make for a calm, safe and rather special environment that can only encourage them to learn, and what’s more, to enjoy learning.
I visited the SOS School in May as part of a research trip for my Masters Degree at University College London. My team and I were examining the role Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) play in increasing the accessibility of secondary school for children from rural areas around Mekelle.
As is probably obvious, the state sector just doesn’t have the resources to provide universal education at secondary level for all children, and as a result, rural state-run schools are overcrowded. Students don’t have some of the basics that we take for granted in the north, such as textbooks, writing materials – let alone science labs and fully stocked libraries.
It was very interesting to see what NGOs are doing, and the different approaches they take to tackling some of the Tigray region’s educational needs.
Whilst some of my colleagues interviewed students at the SOS School, I spoke to Mr Kifle Zerabruk, the School Principal, to find out a bit more about SOS Children’s ethos, and their approach to providing a sound education. I knew from my research that the school had a very good reputation, and on my visit, I could see why: student-teacher ratios are low, facilities are good (those science labs and libraries are well appointed), and the staff have a passion for teaching and giving students the best chance in life. Talking to Mr Zerabruk, I remembered the excited feeling I sometimes used to get about starting a new school year. I thought that l would have enjoyed learning and been happy at a school such as this.
My research colleagues felt the same, having spoken to some of the secondary-aged students. These students were confident, intelligent young people who felt they had a good future ahead of them.
We didn’t come across any NGO-run schools outside of the city. We could definitely see the scope for more schools of this sort, or even partnerships with schools along the SOS Children model, to raise expectations for and standards in learning among children and young people who live further away from the city.
Find out more about the six SOS School and other projects in Ethiopia.
- “Should the number of African adoptions from outside the continent be rising?”
Hannah Edwards, Press Officer, SOS Children UK
According to a new report, the number of African children being adopted by people outside the continent has reached record levels.
Between 2004 and 2010, over 33,000 African children were adopted abroad (13% of the total number of worldwide inter-country placements). The growth is partly due to the fact that countries in other regions of the world have suspended or limited adoptions and agencies are turning to Africa.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child stipulates that inter-country adoption should only take place where “an alternative family environment cannot be found in the home country”. Though progress has been made to protect children’s rights in many countries, experts say adoptions are often not being scrutinised to ensure they meet this criterion. In many cases, foreign adoption is seen as an easy and convenient alternative to care in Africa.
Money plays a significant role. The recent report – ‘The New Frontier for Inter-country Adoption’ by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) – concludes that “commercial interests have superseded altruism, turning children into commodities”. With payments of up to 30,000 dollars for each adopted child, particularly from parents in countries such as the United States, orphanages are being set up purely for financial gain. And money is a key factor in pressurising families and governments to make children available for adoption.
Clearly, any adoptions initiated for the purposes of making money are very wrong. The ACPF calls on all African countries to sign up to the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption which provides practical guidance and standards which protect children. Currently, only 13 African countries have signed up to this and even among those which have, regulation and procedures are not always in place to ensure standards are being met.
However, the ACPF further argues that “children must be allowed to grow up in their own families or communities to ensure continuity in a child’s upbringing in an atmosphere of happiness, love and safety”. Is this taking the argument too far? We all know of successful and happy inter-country adoptions where parents ensure their children regularly return to their native country and keep ties with their home communities, culture and background. And where agreements are in place between countries, authorities have a duty to keep regular checks on the progress and welfare of foreign adopted children until they turn 18.
SOS Children believe that international adoption can be an appropriate care solution for children in Africa who have lost their parents and have no extended family who are willing and able to care for them. However, the charity stresses the importance of children growing up learning their native language within their own culture and faith. This is why their unique SOS Children’s Villages (established in 45 of the 54 African countries) offer children a loving environment and safe home within their native country. They believe that only in circumstances where all local and national possibilities have been exhausted, should international adoption be considered. And if children are sent abroad, the adoption must ensure the safety and wellbeing of African children by following the principles established by the Hague Convention.