It was 10:00AM in the morning at World Vision built Danficha Elementary School in Hulla District, some 365km south in southern Ethiopia. Children were chanting, running, shouting and playing with joy seen on each ones’ face. And others were walking, talking and laughing. It was an amazing scene to see the children’s colorful movement and plays which reminded me of my old school days. I wished I had that day again.
Aster, 16, is one of the student taking part in the game. Born to a destitute farming family, she had a great passion to attending school. Unfortunately, there was no school around. The nearest school to her village is about two hours back and forth walk. Walking two hours every day and attending school was far from possible for her. Neither did her father have sufficient finance to rent her a house near the school and send her to school providing all sort of school materials.
Aster had no choice than serving her parents with house chores. Later, Mr. Guji, Aster’s father decided her go out for work as a housemaid to a certain household with intention of generating some income for the family. “I felt like I was sold when my dad told me that I was rented out to a household that I had no acquaintance with before. I cried and begged my dad to change his mind, but it was impossible. With broken heart and lost hope, at the age of seven, I started serving the family as a housemaid and continued for four years. Since that very day my life was darkened and I became desperate of attending school,” Aster sadly recalls her bad days.
Aster had to clean house, look after the children of her employers, wash dishes, fetch water and collect firewood. “I used to wake up early when the birds start singing and finish my job at 10:00PM at the night. My employers did not think that I can get tired. They used to order me one job after the other. When I got sick, they did not take me to health center. They would rather provide me with local herbals. I had to suffer a lot from the sickness,” she continues explaining her agony.
There was no time that Aster stopped asking her employers to send her to school. However, her employers were reluctant to accept her appeal. She says, “When I saw children going to school carrying school bags, I feel jealous of them. I prayed and asked God ‘when will I get this chance to attend school?’ I often cry closing my room when thinking of my future. I was totally in hopelessness and desperation.”
Aster was not the only children that was denied of access to school due to unavailability of school in the area. Hundreds of children were out of school and were engaged in hard labor in one way or the other. In 2014, World Vision constructed an elementary school at a close distance of Aster’s Village. The opening of the school has become the turning point to Aster and other hundreds of out of school children. “As soon as the school opened, I asked my father to take me out of the labor and send me to school. God helping my father got me registered at the school. I started school at 11 years old. Now I am in grade 5,” she happily explains.
The opening of the school brought about a number of out of school children to school. Mr. Shamena Shalla, Danficha Elementary School Director says, “337 out of school children who were engaged in child labor got registered and started attending school when this school opened for the first time.”
Aster is now happily attending school and very grateful to World Vision. She says, “The opening of the school has shone light on my desperate life and sowed a glimpse of hope in my future. I am optimistic that I will become someone that can contribute something good for myself, my family, and my country.”
Though School construction, we can help children to experience togetherness, learn about their rights and responsibility, protect themselves from harm environment, and empower them to use their potential to change their tomorrow. Investment in school construction needs to be intensified much more to bring all out of school children in the school. Go Blue to bring every child in the school.
Story and Photo by: Aklilu Kassaye, World Vision Ethiopia Communication Specalist