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Hard Times in Ethiopia

Over the past year, our charity in Mekele and the staff have suffered a series of setbacks: Covid, which seems to be less widespread than in the West, allegations against the management, which has been independently investigated and found to mainly baseless, and worst of all, a regional war, during which their offices have been ransacked and equipment stolen.  Any one of these might have destroyed a lesser organisation, but they are a small and tightly-knit group, and clearly very resilient.  Luckily, amid the bombing, the atrocities reported, the apparently indiscriminate killing, and the looting of buildings, all of our staff seem to have survived unhurt, and even managed to progress some of the projects that were underway, although some have been unable to continue for the time being.   We’ll publish more information here soon, but to see the last Newsletter, from December 2020, please click here.

Talking Textbooks

Our previous major project, which has been keeping one of SENTigray’s project managers occupied full time, is the provision of recorded textbooks to blind children throughout Tigray region, an area two-and-a-half times the size of Wales, but a great deal more difficult to access.  The MP3 players we use are no larger than a smartphone, and hold a whole year’s textbooks.  Blind children who previously had no direct access to textbooks, and relied on memory or friends, are suddenly on a par with their sighted colleagues, and equality of opportunity is restored, one of our principal objectives.  You can read the story of the talking textbook project, and how Abel, the project leader, has recently been promoting it in other regions of Ethiopia, by clicking here.


Mekele Boarding School for the Blind

The Blind School, as we know it, is what brought the plight of SEN children in Ethiopia to our attention in the first place.   Although it is now a very different (and improving) place from when Ian Draper, our founder, discovered it in 2004, it still has a way to go before its facilities match those in similar but privately funded and run operations.   However, it has been declared a Special School by the regional government at the end of last year, and a board of Trustees has been convened to implement the improvements that the government recognises are necessary.  Ethiopia’s government has had a difficult time this year, with a State of Emergency, and much of its parliament being replaced, and this has had a ripple-down effect, causing delays to much day-to-day business; no doubt similar to Brexit!   But Masho, SENTigray’s Executive Director, has been appointed to the Blind School’s board, so our links to it will be firmly maintained.
During Covid, the Blind School has only had those few students who had no family and nowhere else to go; a skeleton staff have been looking after them.  And, as at March 2021 they appear to have been unmolested by the war. We will bring you more definite news when we have it.

SENTigray

Our sister charity in Tigray, based in the capital Mekele, had its offices in a government building in the centre of Mekele: The Tigray Regional Bureau of Education.  The Bureau recognised the work that SENTigray was doing and allowed the charity to use the offices without charge.  However, the whole building, in common with many others, was ransacked during the recent military operations, and equipment and records were all taken.  We (SENEthiopia) have agreed to send an initial donation of £2500 to help re-establish the SENTigray operation, but at this stage we don’t know whether the previous arrangements for accommodation will be reinstated.  We will update this page with news as we have it.

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