The day after we toured several sites in Addis Ababa and met with various U.S. and other government leaders, we headed out to spend the beginning of our second full day on the ground in a rural area named Bantu – the home area of Ethiopian President Girma Wolde Giorgis.
Our delegation arrived to the Buckner Bright Hope School in Bantu to find the 400 school children and many of their families and members of the Bantu community were also there to greet us. The children were singing “Welcome, welcome,” and clapping when we arrived.
A local Ethiopian Orthodox Church choir performed a traditional and ancient song and dance, and then Senator Landrieu, Ambassador Jacobs, and Gary Newton spoke briefly with community elders.
Then our entire group visited some of the school’s classrooms and watched a few demonstrations of the children’s math and English-speaking skills.
It was very interesting to me to note how the school is now the focal point of the community of Bantu. The school actually feeds the children who attend two meals a day and provides them stipends for uniforms. At one point, I asked the Director of Buckner Bright Hope, Getahun Tesema, how many sibling groups attend the school, and he told me that only one child from each family in the community is able to attend because parents are unwilling to send all their children away from their housework. I then asked Getahun how the school staff choose which child from a family to attend – Did they select the oldest? Youngest? Smartest? He explained to that they choose the weakest and most malnourished child in the family so they are fed the two daily meals the school offers and thus have a better chance of surviving childhood. It was a humbling reminder to me of the vast needs families in Ethiopia face, that the school would use malnutrition as it’s guiding factor in approaching enrollment.