Ethiopia is home to one of the world’s most ancient civilisations, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It is the continent’s oldest independent country, its second most highly populated nation (96.5m in 2015) and a founder member of the United Nations.
Today the capital, Addis Ababa, serves as the base for many international organisations and it has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, averaging 10.8% in the decade to 2014. Real achievements have been made in poverty reduction over the last decade, particularly in child mortality rates and access to clean water.
However, these successes are mitigated by ongoing very high levels of rural poverty and a highly precarious existence for much of the population. Drought and food scarcity pose ongoing threats to rural communities throughout the country.
Ethiopia has responded strongly to the challenge of the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education and primary enrolments have quadrupled over the last two decades. However, many schools are overcrowded and poorly resourced, with few or no supplementary books in schools for children to read. Secondary enrolment also remains very low, with only 17% of pupils having the opportunity to attend secondary school.
Why we work in Ethiopia
With 88 ethnic languages, and dominated by Amharic, English is nonetheless of central importance: as a curriculum subject at primary level, the medium of instruction at secondary and post-secondary level and more generally as the language of business, commerce, diplomacy and international communication.
Our work in Ethiopia
Our work in Ethiopia, where we have had partnerships with libraries since 1968, supports the acquisition of fluency in English at all levels of education and in daily life and provides books in English to organisations who would otherwise not be able to afford to make them available.
We work in partnership with a wide range of library and education organisations to make books in English widely available to all.
English in schools
We support primary schools in partnership with the British Council, which has a programme supporting 25 schools, and with a local NGO called Ethiopian Knowledge & Technology Transfer Society (EKTTS) which distributes books to both primary and secondary schools throughout the country.
English for students
We also support the rapidly expanding university and college sector, where teaching and learning is exclusively in English and where books are often in very short supply. In partnership with CODE Ethiopia our books reach 13 tertiary and medical colleges; with EKTTS, prison and hospital libraries also benefiting.
English in the community
We also make books available to the wider community: members of the public, college students, secondary pupils and children, through our support for the public library network, both existing libraries and new projects. For example, in 2013, EKTTS succeeded in establishing two Public Libraries and Resource Centers, in Jimma in the Oromiya region and Mekele in Tigray. Book Aid International contributed 14,964 books to this project, which we continue to support with ongoing book donations as the project opens new libraries in other regions (in total, seven PLRCs have now been completed).
We support over 120 rural community libraries (reading rooms) through CODE Ethiopia, providing books and readers in English where resources in English are scarce or often nonexistent. We also provide school level books to Ethiopia Reads, an NGO which supports a network of a further 70 school and community libraries, plus a mobile library service taken to remote villages by a teacher on horseback.
*UN Human Development Index 2014