Expanding pre-primary schools in rural Ethiopia to improve early, quality education

Improving the quality of education has become among the key priority areas of the national reform in Ethiopia. Ethiopia, during the past two or three decades, has registered remarkable achievements in expanding access to education. The country’s continued endeavors in expanding primary education nationwide helped it to score extraordinary outcomes in the education sector. With this sustained effort to achieve universal access to education for the past several years, currently around 30 million students are attending their education from primary to higher education level.

Though the effort to access education has helped the country to reduce the rate of illiteracy and bring more children to schools, quality education remains a serious challenge that the country cannot overcome. Considering the role of education for the overall development of the country, since recent years especially following the 2018 reform, Ethiopia has turned its face to improve the quality of education. As part of this effort, a number of reform measures are being taken concurrent to expanding schools across the country to achieve universal access.

Just to mention but a few, improving the standard of schools, reforming the education system, introducing school feeding programs to support children from low-income families and expanding pre-primary education are among the actions being undertaken. These days, seeing pre-primary (kindergarten) education centers in urban areas is common and in turn, children from age four to six have got the opportunity to join preschools and attend their pre-primary education before joining grade-1 at the age of seven. However, this does not mean that the expansion of pre-primary education in the rural parts of the country was not as such successful because until recent years pre-primary schools were not expanded at the desired level and the pace remained slower. But, following the reform in the education sector after the national reform, expanding pre-primary education becomes part and parcel of the education reform to ensure quality education.

Recently, a team of journalists from the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) had a chance to visit Southwest Shoa Zone of Oromia State and Dawro zone of the South West Ethiopia Peoples’ State.

Administrators of the two zones told the journalists that improving quality education is among the priority tasks of the administrations. According to the administrators, expanding pre-primary education in the rural parts of the zones is the major task in the education sector.

Southwest Shoa Zone Administration Office Head, Tolossa Terefe said that various tasks are being underway to ensure quality education from pre-primary up to secondary education in the zone. Currently, over 309,000 students are attending their education, from pre-primary to secondary, in 450 schools located in the zone.

According to him, developing the standard of schools is part of the reform measures in the zone and the zone is hugely investing to improve the quality of education in the zone. As part of this effort and to improve the standard of the schools, the zone opened three special high schools.

“The zone has opened three special high schools with the capacity of accommodating 340 students each targeting to promote and recognize top scorer students of grade eight. These high schools, known as ‘Efa Boru’ have become operational since this Ethiopian academic year,” he remarked.

In addition to the efforts to bring about quality education in primary and secondary schools, the zone intensifies expanding pre-primary education in the rural parts of the zone. In this regard, the zone is working to open one pre-primary school in each school in the zone, Tolossa added.

According to Tolossa, since last year, the zone is extensively engaged in expanding pre-primary (kindergarten) schools in the rural areas of the zone. Mentioning the initiative by State’s President, Shimelis Abdissa to open one kindergarten across all schools in the rural part of Oromia state, Tolossa said that to get the initiative off the ground, South West Shoa Zone has started opening kindergartens in the rural schools.

“In urban areas, pre-primary school is common and children from age three to four have the chance to join kindergartens easily. But, kindergartens are rare, and almost unavailable in the rural parts until the recent initiative,” the Head reiterated. Lack of access to pre-primary education in the areas forced rural children to start their formal education and join grade one without having any knowhow about education and the school environment. This, in turn, brings about undesirable impacts in the performance of the rural students and lowers their competitiveness with the urban students. The majority of the people reside in rural areas; and expanding pre-primary education in the rural parts of the country is key to promote early education of children.

“Investing in pre-primary education and allowing all children to get access to pre-primary education means working at the grassroots level and cultivating tomorrow’s generation,” Tolossa noted. To realize the plan of opening pre-primary schools in all schools across the zone, in the last Ethiopian academic year, 221 new pre-primary (kindergarten) schools were built and started providing service in rural parts of the zone. “In this academic year, our plan was to open 94 new kindergarten schools in the remaining kebeles and so far we can realize the establishments of 85 schools,” the Head pronounced.

Now, rural children have access to pre-primary education like children in urban areas. “This is one step forward achieved within a short period of time; and we will continue the efforts – expanding pre-primary schools.”

Stating that the number of pre-primary schools in the zone has increased to 400 owing to the efforts, Tolossa highlighted the importance of further investment to curtail limitations faced in the sector.

By the same token, Dawro Zone of South West Ethiopia’s State is also striving to improve quality education and improve the standards of schools across the zone. “Improving the standards of schools and enhancing education quality is a priority area of the zone,” Dawro Zone Chief Administrator said.

Approached by EPA journalists, Zone’s Chief Administrator, Dawit Gebeyehu stated that as part of the efforts to ensure quality education, efforts are underway in developing the skills of teachers, improving the standards of schools, expanding schools and pre-primary education in the zone.

With regard to pre-primary education, Dawit said that expanding kindergarten is crucial to ensure quality education as it helps to work on the base. As to him, though the expansion of kindergarten in the rural areas of the zone is at its early stage, various activities are underway to expand pre-primary education in the rural areas. The efforts are bringing meaningful developments in the rural parts of the zone though a lot remains to be done, he said.



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