Account of Ethiopia's Segregationist Education Gives Needed Perspective

This post is a little different than many of the usual ones here, but sometimes it’s good to expand our horizons. My parents say that’s an important part of a good education.

Well, anyway, a couple months ago, the Education Policy Center (the whole Independence Institute really) made a new friend in Ethiopian journalist Habtamu Dugo, who fled his homeland to avoid persecution from the government. Here’s a 5-minute video in which Habtamu tells his own story:

Now living in the United States, Habtamu recently wrote about the problems with his nation’s education system, particularly how the government’s repressive segregationist policy is so harmful to the ethnic groups not represented by those in power. It’s a long article, so you should really read the whole thing. But here’s a key passage:

The unwritten policy, however, is that students in Tigray region and Addis Ababa (Finfinnee) region as opposed to other regions study all subjects in English, starting at their seventh grade. This gives Tigray and Addis Ababa students better performance because they have two years advantage over students from other regions as they study all subjects in the English language. In high schools and universities the medium of instruction is English in Ethiopia. Students from the 7 other regional states also want to start their education in English as early as grade 7, but the government has systematically denied them this opportunity.

At their tenth grade, students from other regions and Tigray and Addis Ababa sit for the same national examination that is set in English in order to pass to preparatory and vocational streams. This is where the policy of segregations inflicts failures upon thousands of poorly prepared children, both in terms of their verbal and mathematical skills.

A solid background in English is critical in secondary and university education as textbooks are generally available only in English, which is the official medium of instruction. That is the reason students who are deficient in English skills will not be able to keep up. Besides, the major advantage of speaking English is to use it as a neutral lingua franca to do business and to create wealth across state lines and internationally. However, from the view point of the extremist dictatorship economic growth is not as much a benefit as keeping the population from communicating with one another for political reasons. Also, only the ruling tribes will be able to communicate effectively on a global level.

We have a lot to fight for in this country in terms of educational freedom. But reading Habtamu’s account of education in Ethiopia – Africa’s 2nd most populous nation, with 77 million people – puts our situation into better perspective.

Peace and best wishes to the Oromo and other repressed peoples of Ethiopia, for whom unequal access to English language education is but one part of the abusive treatment they face at the hands of their own government.