In early December 2022, Geneva Global Ethiopia (GGE) hosted a joint mission of senior leaders from key funders and partners involved in the implementation of Speed School in the Oromia and Somali regions of eastern Ethiopia. Implementation in this region, funded by UNICEF and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), targets internally displaced students who have had their education disrupted by conflict, climate change, and malnutrition.
Present for the visit was Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Norway’s Minister of International Development; Graham Lang, ECW Director of the High-Level Financing Conference and Chief of Education; Birgitte Lange, CEO of Save the Children Norway; representatives from regional and district-level education offices as well as representatives from GGE’s local partner, the Oromia Development Association. The purpose of the visit was to share and evaluate the results of the first two years of ECW funding, assessing the impact on quality, relevance and continuity of learning as well as general retention.
The senior delegates visited various Speed School sites and heard from students, parents, and other relevant stakeholders. The itinerary included visits to Iffa and Jejeba primary schools in Babile, Oromia and to Tulu Guli primary school in Somali. All three are government-run schools which house and support Speed School classes. While there, the delegates engaged with students and their teachers in classrooms and with select student groups, including the Gender Club and the Environmental Conservation Club. With parents, the high-level officials learned about the progress and success of Speed School’s community engagement strategies. The programming also featured diverse presentations and remarks from actors such as school directors, ECW partners, village chiefs, and regional education officers.
GGE was eager to share in-person the progress and impact of ECW’s funding of Speed School classes. “Through discussions with overaged girls and boys, our visitors witnessed the distinct value of Speed School in building confidence, communication skills, and other basic competencies essential for success in life,” shared Samuel Wollie, Director of GGE. Evidence of success is instrumental to attract and mobilize resources for multi-year funding from ECW.
Students and parents alike substantiated how the ECW project has transformed their lives and outlook. Prior to enrolling in Speed School, the financial insecurity and general uncertainty associated with frequently recurring civil conflict made it challenging for students to attend school. The Speed School program is distinctly suited to address this and other situations for highly vulnerable populations. By pairing an accelerated curriculum—covering in one year the first three years of primary school—with Self Help Groups, which join students’ parents in income generation and savings activities, Speed School provides students and their families with the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate persisting obstacles to pursuing a full education.
Minister Tvinnereim, representing the Government of Norway, one of ECW’s major donors, commented, “Education in crisis and conflict is a priority for the Norwegian government. In conflict especially, girls drop out of school. What this field visit has shown us is that if you manage to bring children back into school, they will eventually help build the societies they live in.”
Looking forward, GGE is eager to build on the current success of the program and continue accompanying its donors in creating lasting impact. Through the continued compilation and dissemination of evidence-based results, regular iteration of facilitated discussions with partners and donors, and increased field visits, GGE seeks to carry forward the momentum generated by the energizing visit. GGE will rely on the matched enthusiasm and demonstrated commitment of its partners and donors to increase the reach and impact of the Speed School program. Wollie concludes, “Our work with UNICEF continues to broaden in scale and scope. Greater work towards systematizing and institutionalizing the Speed School model through thought leadership and advocacy seem critical if we want to leap forward.”
*Featured image: From left to right: Country Director for Save the Children Ethiopia, the Norway Ambassador to Ethiopia, CEO of Save the Children– (Norway), Norway’s Minister of International Development, and UNICEF Ethiopia Education Chief, several community and school leaders, and GGE Country Director.