April 26, 2021
Dear Esteemed members and supporters of the Fregenet Foundation,
I am excited to share with you a report from my four month stay in Ethiopia and the promising progress the Fregenet Foundation has accomplished despite the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following, I will briefly describe a list of activities and accomplishments.
First, I am happy to inform you that education at the Fregenet Kidan LeHitsanat School is proceeding smoothly since the resumption of in person classes a few months ago. About seventy students attend every other day including Saturday. The school continues to provide all necessities including food and educational material. First semester has ended, examinations have been administered, and the second semester has already begun.
In a related development, the school’s manager has opened her own business in Dire Dawa, in the Eastern part of Ethiopia, and thus will not be returning. We have, therefore, been conducting job interviews with potential candidates. As we have yet to find a candidate who meets the rigorous requirements of the school, the search continues.
During my stay in Addis Ababa, we organized a successful fundraising campaign involving partners and volunteers from different sectors of the city’s population. Solicitation is still ongoing, however we have so far been fortunate to raise more than 200,000 birr.
Additionally and most importantly, the Foundation’s ten year-old request for land to build a state-of-the art and model elementary school in Addis Ababa has finally reached the City’s Cabinet for decision and I am excited to share with you the news that it has been decided in favor of our request. This decision is a wonderful recognition and testimonial by the City’s administration of our work over the last sixteen years in serving underserved children at a grassroots level. Once paperwork on the Cabinet’s decision is done and the lease agreement is signed, we will soon obtain a design work and building permit to start constructing our own school and permanent facility.
Construction at the Fregenet Dembi Elementary School in Bishoftu, about 42 kilometers south of Addis Ababa, is going well and I was able to help expedite the construction process. Major structural works have been completed including plastering and what remains is inside roofwork, floorwork, door and window work and fencing. These are expected to begin shortly.
On a different note, I was able to organize a working visit to the Fregenet Dembi Elementary School project site attended by the manager and deputy manager of the Addis Ababa branch of the Geneva Global, a non-governmental organization, along with a strategic advisor for Africa of The Luminos Fund. All were very impressed by the ongoing construction activity and by the speed and quality with which it is progressing. After their visit, they expressed that the school can serve as a great model school for the country in light of what it does for the children, their parents and the community at large. Besides providing meals, uniforms, and educational materials, the school also is designed to offer crucial service for the community through its library, computer lab and clinic which is open to the public but also the regular health screening opportunities which benefits students, their families and the community. The school and the community also benefit from internship and voluntary services provided by people who come from Addis Ababa and overseas. I am really pleased to witness the respect with which the school is now held by officials and leaders of education. I and the Foundation once again reaffirm our commitment to live up to expectation.
Geneva Global operates a Speed School program which aims to offer accelerated crash education programs for vulnerable out-of-school children ranging from 9 to 15 years-old for a year in the daytime and a year and half in the evening classes. The objective is to help them catch up on lost education by providing supportive and joyful classroom and educational environment. Studies have shown that a majority of the children, more than 90% in many cases, make a successful transition to mainstream school afterward and complete primary school at twice the rate of their peers. Such a system is critical in conditions of poverty which forces many children to drop out of school and risk being completely forgotten or ignored. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation.
The Speed School system, also fittingly called Second Chance, offers the opportunity for accelerated education that condenses years of education into a year or a few months (one instance is three years of basic education into just ten months). Apart from accelerated learning for school dropouts, the benefit of this partnership includes opportunities for income generation for the schools and teachers working thereof. Geneva Global has now a verbal agreement to partner with the Fregenet Foundation to launch Speed School at the Fregenet Dembi Elementary School in September. Speed School will also operate at the Addis Ababa-based Fregenet Kidan LeHitsanat for evening classes. A Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be signed soon.
During my stay, I was also able to bring together quite a few dedicated and dynamic group of young professionals from around the city to assist the work of the Foundation in the city and its environs. They are very committed and have shown a desire for long-term collaboration which includes serving in the local board of directors of the Fregenet Foundation. It is important to reiterate that the Foundation is interested in promoting young people and committed to its belief in gender equity in board membership as well as in job recruitment.
These four months in Ethiopia have convinced me that despite considerable difficulties it is possible to achieve significant success if there is strong commitment, extraordinary patience and resilience, strategic leadership, and a deep sense of solidarity. There is no denying the fact that the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are formidable especially in terms of fundraising and conventional in-person teaching. At the same time, the human spirit is indomitable which humanity needs to overcome adversities caused by the vicissitudes of life. It is instructive to mention here that many of the Foundation’s significant accomplishments have come during and in spite of the multiplicity of difficulties, including the pandemic. This is a vindication that challenges when confronted strategically can turn out to be opportunities.
However, opportunities become actionable when there is commitment, solidarity, and support. This is the key to our success over the last sixteen years and it will continue to be so in the future. It is with this deep conviction that we ask our esteemed supporters and partners to continue to support the enduring ideals and objectives of the Foundation of which they are a vital part. We have made incredible progress over the years and we are poised to make a lot more in the years to come. We rely on your advice, encouragement and support.
Thank you very much,
Tafesse Woubshet, President
The Fregenet Foundation