As an elementary school student (okay, and as a high school student too), snow days were among the happiest days of the year. I never thought twice about feeling anything other then joyful when school was cancelled because of weather. But for students in Ethiopia, climate has presented a huge educational obstacle to overcome. In January, UNICEF reported that over 450,000 young children in Ethiopia have seen their schooling opportunities threatened by natural disasters and conflict. It seems that droughts leave more than just the land barren; classrooms are taking a hit too. Torn between drought, flooding and windstorms, some regions in Ethiopia suffered a 50 percent dropout rate in just one month this summer. Unfortunately, these dropout rates have become the norm.
Each day that passes of a child not attending school increases the likelihood that the child will not return. To mitigate the devestation, several steps are being taken to get kids back in school before it’s too late. An article published by “IRIN” highlighted the effectiveness of school feeding programs and flexible calendar scheduling. The World Food Programme in partnership with other organizations is spearheading a “food for education” program. Serving a meal or snack during the school day has proven to be a great incentive for parents to send their children to school. Plus, the extra nourishment helps the young students focus on their studies, rather than on their rumbling stomach. A more flexible school calendar allows the children of pastoralists or nomadic populations to migrate when drought hits without the consequence of missing school. The school calendar would be designed so that class didn’t meet during the driest seasons.
Currently, the WFP is still seeking funds to provide assistance to children in Ethiopia in need of food and educational aid. To learn more about how drought can impact a child’s schooling, click here to watch a UNICEF video from 2007 when the same desperate circumstances arose in Ethiopia.