From Shepherd Boy to Aspiring Doctor: The Story of One Speed School Learner

February 22, 2022

“If I didn’t come to school, I would still be a cattle boy (a shepherd). I would not know anything, let alone read and write my name and dream of becoming a doctor.”

Dejene , like many Speed School learners grew up in a nontraditional household. Dejene was orphaned as a baby and was raised as an only child by his elderly grandmother, who was still mourning the loss of her own child. He grew up in a small house a rural part of Yaya Gulele in the Oromia region. Too old to work herself, Dejene’s Grandmother came to rely on him to ensure there was food on the table. They never imagined education could be possible for Dejene who from a young age had taken on the responsibilities of an adult, providing for his family.

One day, when Dejene was 12 years old, he was approached by a strange man who introduced himself as the Director of Sadini Beyo School, not far from Dejene’s home. At the time Dejene was working as a shepherd alongside several friends who had grown up in similar conditions. During the initial conversation Dejene was excited about the prospect of going to school but he was shocked to realize his friends did not share his hope for a different kind of future. Dejene went home and told his grandmother about the encounter, and she too became intrigued, despite her trepidation. At the time, Dejene’s grandmother shared that she thought it seemed like an awfully big promise for the Director of a rural school to make to a shepherd boy. A few days later Dejene and his grandmother visited the school to get more information and after learning of the Self Help Group component that would create income-generating opportunities for the guardians of Speed School learners, she was convinced.

Dejene is now 13 and attending his Speed School class every day. His facilitator describes him as bright, active, optimistic, and shared that from the first phase of the program, Dejene had stood out as one of the highest achievers. Dejene explained, “Because of joining the ALFA class, I am now able to read and write my name, count numbers, and do simple math.” He also added, “My favorite subject is math, and I enjoy learning here.” Each day, Dejene works closely with his classes and boasts that they call themselves the “Journalist Group,” meaning they are responsible for bringing new information from their community back to the class each day to teach their classmates. When asked how he feels about this daily assignment Dejene explained, “I like learning this way. It is more of practical learning where I am able to relate what I learn to things at home. In the classroom I can touch everything, and our facilitator helps us in every way possible, whether it is through cutting papers, crafting materials, or creative arts.” When asked if this meant he wanted to be a journalist, he said he enjoyed his classroom role his dream is to become a doctor. “I want to be able to cure my people of pain and disease, and this is why I always study hard.”

As we wrapped up his interview Dejene expressed his gratitude for the Speed School program saying, “If I didn’t come to school, I would still be a cattle boy (a shepherd). I would not know anything, let alone read and write my name and dream of becoming a doctor. My friends are still shepherds and do not know how to read, count, or write, and there are many children like them. I always try to help them and teach them, and it is sad to see them not getting the chance to be in the classroom.” Dejene, like all of us at Geneva Global understands there is still much work to be done to ensure every child has access to a second chance at education.