Beating the odds and returning to school
Meet Fikre Filo, a 20 years old girl with a disability who resides in Fulassa village of Boricha, one of the districts in the Sidama regional state in Southern Ethiopia. She can hardly walk and moves using both her hands and feet. At school, she uses her crutches to support her walking. Her condition results from the poliovirus that infected her at childhood. The community had a negative attitude towards her disability in her early years. The wrong perception towards people with disability is common in many rural communities in Ethiopia. They are hostile towards people with disabilities because they believe that curses cause disabilities. Fortunately for Fikre, her relatives accepted her as an essential member of their family.
Fikre stopped going to school several years ago. The worst poverty in her household coupled with her physical challenges made it very hard for her to attend school. It was also a real challenge for her mother to feed her and her seven siblings. Her father, Filo, who is now 90 years old, does not support the family anymore because of his old age. Sending the children to school was a distant dream for Fikre's mother as her primary focus was to put something in their mouths at least once a day.
Following the good news of the start of Save the Children’s Comprehensive, Homegrown, Inclusive, Learning and Development-School Feeding Project (CHILD-SFP) project Program at Fulassa Primary School through funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Fikre was able to return to school last year after dropping out three years ago.
"Life has become so good for my five siblings and me. We all get enough delicious food and attend our class belly full. We also listen to what the teachers say attentively. We even complete our classwork and our home-works," said Fikre.
Martha Techa, the school's deputy principal, said that Fikre is polite, humble, and highly disciplined. She also added that Fikir engages with other students and makes friends. Like many students in the school, Fikir's exam results have shown significant improvement.
"For example, when we conclude the last academic year, Fikre ranked 15th out of 55 students in her class. Which is the best of all the records she achieved in the past. I believe this is the result of the school meal service and our teachers' improved teaching skills, " Martha said proudly.
The different pieces of training provided for the teachers were very useful and brought lasting change. The CHILD-SFP's training facilitated by Save the Children focused on disability inclusion and was provided to the teachers and the school's Parents - Teachers Association (PTA) members. After the training, the school community began treating other students like Fikir with disability reasonably and respectfully. Fikre is happy now. Despite her situation, she is optimistic that she will succeed in life. She has a lot of hope for the future. She regularly talks about her most prolonged desire to become a director of a school that helps physically challenged children like her.
"I am very thankful to the donor for everything that we are getting through their support; I can now comfortably use the disability-friendly latrine and the girl's sanitary room in our school; Gone are also the days that we worry about food," Fikre beamed. Motivated by the benefits of the project, Fikre's mother started volunteering in some activities within the school.
Save the Children’s CHILD-SFP project in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Regional Education Bureaus, District Education Offices, Ethiopian School Meal Initiative(ESMI) is reaching more than 163,000 children of pre-primary and primary schools in five regions, covering 499 schools in 13 districts. The project benefits 2,405 (47%girls) students with disabilities in the target schools.
Story Contributor: Abdusemed Mussa