Schools in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian government made great efforts to improve education and build schools. Swedish development
assistance made it possible to construct about 450 primary schools per year during the 1980s, using local building
materials. The pictures shows the start of the school day, raising the flag and singing of the Ethiopian national
anthem. The school building in the back is covered with straw mats to protect the mud walls from driving rain.
This was the standard construction: two blocks of two classrooms each and either a store or the directors office between the classrooms.
This school was built in stone, the traditional construction material in this area.
A traditional “chicka” building, a structure of poles with walls filled with chicka (mud) – before the mud was
applied. The school is already in use. There was an equal number of girls and boys among the students.
Lining up to receive a visit by a Sida delegation.
Education was very popular and there were often so many students that schools had to run in shifts. There was no
electricity and classrooms were dark. We tried to introduce lime wash on the walls to make the classrooms brighter.
Classes started as soon as classrooms had been built, even before furniture arrived. There were
several teaching training institutes in Ethiopia and more were built to produce more teachers.
Sometimes even the store had to be used as a classroom because there were too many students.
School furniture was sometimes very rudimentary. This school was in a very remote area, hard
to reach. The community was very poor and did not put priority on maintenance of the school.
One way of solving the need for furniture.
This used to be the standard furniture shipped out to schools, but they did not last very long. A problem
was that furniture was assembled with screws and nuts, which sometimes fell off and disappeared. It was
difficult to replace the missing pieces, especially for schools in remote areas were there were no roads.
A good classroom and good furniture – but this furniture did not always last because of the way it was assembled.
Jörgen Pudeck and Björn Stillefors, two Swedish designers, were financed by Sida to do a Minor Field Study to improve
school furniture. Their furniture did not require any assembly with screws. One of the most popular designs used
reinforcement bars as legs for table tops and benches: wood, metal or concrete. In the background is a model made of mud.
Classroom with furniture made of mud. One test was to paint the furniture. The picture was taken during a visit by the Deputy Minister
of Education, tall man with glasses in the center of the picture, and other government officials. Björn Stillefors with his back to the camera.
Students learned not only reading, writing and math, but also skills like rope making. The little “tuft”
of hair left on the head of the boy in the middle was common. Child mortality was high in Ethiopia.
The piece of hair left was so that it would be easier for the angel to lift the dead child into heaven.
Drawing was a basic subject in schools.
These girls use small “school bags” designed by Björn and Jörgen, where the top was a blackboard to write on.
After school detention for secondary students who had misbehaved.
Teaching materials for primary schools were mainly produced by the teachers. Here from a workshop where teaching materials were made.
Teaching material produced by teachers.
The holder in the middle holds an ordinary bulb with the metal filament removed and filled halfway with water to make a magnifying glass.
The map of Ethiopia.
Some of the almost 280 characters in the Ethiopian alphabet.
A globe of the earth.
An abacus made of bottle caps.
School walls were often used for drawings.
A primary school built of concrete elements. These schools were originally built with Swedish support, but were
too expensive when the Ethiopian government decided to expand education dramatically. That called for much
cheaper construction, and schools were then built in traditional local material, such as “chicka”, stone or bamboo.
This classroom in Addis Ababa has 117 students, part of the 3000 students the school had just in 9th grade,
and of the 15,000 students they had in grades 8 – 12. The school ran three shifts to accommodate all students.
The school board of a primary school in the highlands of Wollo Region. Each primary school had a board.
The local community built the schools, using material that was supplied by the government, such as
corrugated iron for the roof, impregnated eucalyptus poles for walls and cement for the foundations.