Yesterday we learned from UNICEF Ethiopia that since 2001, the donations from IKEA Foundation have mostly been increasing every year. By 2014 IKEA Foundation was already the biggest corporate cash donor to UNICEF. We also gained basic understanding of education resources in Ethiopia.
We left Kebish Guest House at 7:30am traveling on bumpy gravel roads the whole journey, and from time to time we had to slow down for groups of donkeys and sheep carrying goods along the road. On the way, Peggy and myself kept asking Getachew Solomon (Education Officer of Oromia Region) questions about local education. For example, how much time do kids have to spend on walking to the school? What’s the education system here? Are textbooks and uniforms subsidised? All these discussions ended in trembling voices caused by the bumpy roads and the eventual tyre blowout.
Around 11:00am, we arrived at the first school—Tutis Primary School of Oromia Region, which is about 440km away from Addis Ababa. As soon as we got out of the car, we heard school students singing “We love IKEA” again and again. In that moment I was not only extremely touched, but also suddenly understood the influence that myself, every coworker, every shop and every customer has through our Soft Toys for Education campaign.
From the presentation given by teachers, we learned that UNICEF is sponsoring many educational facilities at the school, including: a library, classrooms, desks, chairs, a water storage tank, water collector and CTC (Child to Child) educational training resources. During our stay we visited the classrooms of lower grade students, the DIY garden, the vital water storage tank (used for drinking water), the library and the teachers resources storage room, filled with objects used to teach.
We also tried on traditional costumes with assistance from residents of local community.
Next, we went to see a Child to Child Centre next to the school, where every child has his/her own school bag and notebook. Child to Child is a programme that takes outstanding students from primary school guide 5 and trains them to teach smaller children to learn simple skills such as the alphabet and basic vocabulary, before they start at school.
After we finished the school visit, we hit the bumpy gravel road again. We were unlucky enough to have another tyre blowout again! Same car and same tyre! When we were waiting for the tyre to be changed, kids nearby started gathering around us. Our cameraman decided to use time lapse to record the energy and pure joy of local children!
During our visits, the temperature indoor and outdoor just kept going up, and we had to get in and out the car many times. All of us had our eyes and ears open because we didn’t want to miss any fleeting moment. By the time we realised it, none of us had used restrooms nor had any food since breakfast!
The discussion session after dinner not only helped relieve the (good) tension of the day, but also let us look forward to the visits over the next two days even more. We deeply believe that everything here is happening because of the Soft Toys for Education campaign. It gives a future to school children around the world!