The transformation of children’s education in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia

Educating a child takes a lot more than simply building schools. A new report from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, shows the many different problems that need to be tackled to help give kids the education they need. The report highlights how funding from the IKEA Foundation has helped improve children’s educations in the Dollo Ado region of Ethiopia, close to the Somali border.

In 2012, the education system in Dollo Ado was in a sorry state. Just 18 per cent of children were in school. UNHCR set out an ambitious programme to improve the lives of everyone living there, from the host community to every refugee man, woman and child who had fled there. Education was central to this strategy. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2013/IKEA Foundation/Åsa Sjöström).

This programme was made possible by a first-of-its-kind, multi-year partnership with the IKEA Foundation. Funding from the IKEA Foundation enabled UNHCR to start microfinance schemes for refugees. An irrigation project meant barren land was now farmed by refugees and the host community. As their income increased, parents were less likely to withdraw their children from school to work as manual labourers. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2013/IKEA Foundation/Åsa Sjöström).

Bishar Yusuf (right), 14, a Somali refugee living in Dollo Ado, is proud of his mother, Axada Muhamed Muhumed (left), for earning money at the local market that enables him and his siblings to go to school in Melkadida refugee camp, Ethiopia. By helping more parents earn a better living, the IKEA Foundation has helped make it possible for more kids to go to school instead of work. Yusuf says “I can buy school uniforms, get everything they need and our lives are better.”

Meanwhile, an IKEA Foundation-funded project to bring electricity to the region has also had multiple benefits. Streets are now lit at night. Hospitals and health centres have refrigeration for medicines. And computers and improve the quality of the learning environment with digital lessons and more engaging ways of teaching. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2014/UNHCR/Jiro Ose).

Investment in primary education means that the number of classrooms has quadrupled to over 400, with many functioning on double shifts. As a result, by the end of the 2018 school year over 47,000 refugee children were in school. This is more than double the number in 2012. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2013/IKEA Foundation/Åsa Sjöström)

Enrolment in secondary school, however, remains challenging with just six per cent of young people enrolled. And for those students who are going to secondary school, huge class sizes and a lack of classrooms could undermine their ability to learn. The majority of last year’s grade eight children passed their exams, so this year the 32 secondary classrooms available will be packed to bursting with over 70 students per class. This number is well above the global recommendation of 40 students. Sixteen new classrooms are needed, but funding is elusive. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2013/IKEA Foundation/Åsa Sjöström).

Space is not the only challenge. As more primary children succeed in completing this level, there are not enough teachers for the secondary school. A teacher-training course started at , Melkadida, in early 2018, with the first graduates expected in 2020. Over 200 Ethiopian students and 23 refugee students are part of the first cohort of student teachers. (Photo and credit above: Dollo Ado 2013/IKEA Foundation/Åsa Sjöström). 

Yusuf Isak Ibrahim (raising his hand), 26, is one of them. He is a Somalian refugee enrolled at the Teacher Training College in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. He is studying to become an English teacher. (Photo and credit above: UNHCR). 

Poverty remains the greatest barrier to education for Somali refugees in Ethiopia, and for most refugees around the world. Too many refugees have their lives on hold, unable to flourish or contribute to the communities where they live. The IKEA Foundation is working toward a world where people who are forced to flee their homes can still lead productive lives, with access to health, education and job opportunities that give them and their children a brighter future.


UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency


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