Ethiopian Conflict Disrupts School for Tens of Thousands

Conflict in Ethiopia’s vast Oromia region has disrupted formal education for tens of thousands of youngsters, authorities there say.

Violent attacks on mostly ethnic Oromo communities have forced 159 schools in five regions to close at least temporarily in the past two years, said the Oromia Educational Bureau’s head, Tola Bariso.

He said about 65,000 students � at least half of whom fled to Oromia from Ethiopia’s neighboring Somali region � have been displaced, along with their families. He did not say how many of those youths were enrolled in other schools.

Conflict in Ethiopia’s vast Oromia region has disrupted formal education for tens of thousands of youngsters, authorities there say.

Violent attacks on mostly ethnic Oromo communities have forced 159 schools in five regions to close at least temporarily in the past two years, said the Oromia Educational Bureau’s head, Tola Bariso.

He said about 65,000 students � at least half of whom fled to Oromia from Ethiopia’s neighboring Somali region � have been displaced, along with their families. He did not say how many of those youths were enrolled in other schools.

One day, they are in school. The next day, they are out, Godana Bule said of students such as his 10-year-old son, who goes to Arbale Elementary School in Moyale.

Bule has four other children. We, as a family, and the children themselves are so scared to go to school, he said. We used to take them to school on a motorbike. Now, the [Liyu] force is shooting people on a motorbike almost every day.

Bule said he had sought help from the federal military command post in Moyale but was turned away. He and other residents said the military usually does not protect civilians from Liyu police, even though the force is operating outside its Somali jurisdiction.

Aschalewu Yohanis, Moyale’s mayor, estimated that more than 4,000 children in his town missed school this year because of violence. He said despite that disadvantage, even the students who didn’t attend schools properly decided to take the [national university entrance] exam earlier this month. They’ve reasoned that even if they’re unprepared now, the situation could worsen in the future and they might be even less prepared for testing, he explained. Test results are expected later this summer.

In and around Gumi Eldallo, a town in the southern Oromia region, most youngsters from pastoralist or herding families have big gaps in school attendance, said the town’s mayor, Wario Golicha. He said seven schools have closed in the region as families fled conflict.

Bariso, the Oromia region’s education chief, said conflict also has driven ethnic Oromo teachers out of Somali region � including 437 from the regional capital of Jijiga. They are assigned to various schools in Oromia, he said.

Some students, too, have been reassigned. But that creates another challenge: overcrowding. After absorbing displaced students, a single classroom might have as many as 80 students, Bariso said.

The education chief said the regional government is working to reopen schools. But for now, many Oromo families feel vulnerable and inconsistently send youngsters to school.

I wouldn’t call that an education, said Bule, but that is the only option we have.

Source: Voice of America