Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drains and things …

Drains and plumbing in Ethiopia aren’t the same as in many countries – here it is much more hands on !  The drains in the Kindergarten school has been troubling for a few weeks now, however this week they gave up completely and thus  we had to get the “ plumber ” in. 
The toilets on the right side and the subsequent holes
.  This poor man had to single-handedly dig a huge hole and try to sort out the blockage amidst the muck ! He had a wonderful spirit as he working however – shouting with excitement every time he found another thing that was causing the blockage ( a mixture of balls, stones  and a teacher’s mobile phone which had fallen down the toilet about a month ago ! )

Our new nursery class is now almost ready for launching – just awaiting a new teacher. However, this week’s news is that once the grade pupils parents heard about there being a special class for the nursery in Oroifa, then they requested a new class for grade 1 ( this was only a vague possibility last week ) – meaning that we will shortly be a school with 9 classes ! – an expensive but exciting challenge!
The hole !

Friday, October 17, 2014

The school is expanding once again - this time for Oromifa !

This week has been a very mixed time, due to matters beyond our control !
The confusing development this week was  the news that we have to have Oromifa classes  - regardless of the number of pupils interested . Nazret ( or Adama to give it its original Oromo name ) is located in a region known as Oromia . The official language of the Oromia region is Oromo and in more rural areas, for many this is the only language that they know. ( see for more info )
KG 2 class in action

In order to keep this language alive, ( in a country where the national language is Amharic ) schools in the more rural Oromia regions are required to have special Oromifa classes. As the new far school is in an area which was previously a rural village and thus people are all farmers, we have always had these special Oromifa classes, with no problems. 

However,  there has now been a decision by the government that if parents want all subjects to be taught in Oromifa, then the school has to oblige. This has meant that we are being forced to open up a nursery class of a mere 8 pupils and the possibility of another class for the grade section – meaning additional expenses in buying and making more tables and chairs for the new classes – not to mention the expense of hiring new teachers !

Still, it will be interesting to have new classes and fun to train up new teachers and prepare whole new classes with flashcards and displays  and great to see the school swell to an amazing 8 ( or possibly 9 classes ) when just over a year ago it was a mere empty shell – so as the blog message started – a very mixed week indeed !

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Back once again

After a long wait at last the blog is back on its feet ! With a schedule that was just too hectic, the blog simply got left behind - but the good news is that it is now back on track -so the summary of the past few months at English Alive :
KG 2 ready for action !

The biggest change has been the closure of the central grade school. This was due to  a change in the rules and regulations about renting properties. As many pupils as possible have been transferred across to the new far school but as the name suggests, it is on the outskirts of the town and thus the 30 minute bus travel is not suitable for everyone.

The most positive part of this has been our added resolve to purchase our own land and build our own school.  We have started collecting funds for this and hope to launch a capital campaign with matching funding in December.

Grade 2 class with their new tables
On a personal note, our family have also had a huge change, since our son is now in grade 5 and the school only provides education up to grade 4. As a result, we were forced to move back to the capital Addis Ababa so that our children could continue their schooling. I now work part time at a school in Addis as an educational consultant and spend half the week in Nazret at English Alive with the rest of the family coming across as many weekends as possible. This makes for a busy - but very interesting schedule !

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy Ethiopian Christmas !

 In addition to having their own time ( the day starting at 6 am when the sun rises and finishing at 6 pm when the sun sets – thus making Ethiopian time 6 hours behind Western time ) Ethiopia has its own Christmas – which will be on 7th January. 

 Christmas here is a one day affair – although for the women is a two- three day case since the traditional dish of dora wot ( chicken stew ) is typically eaten at Christmas , which requires about ten kilos of onions to be finely chopped to make the dish !  Presents are not exchanged and the highlight of the day is the eating of the chicken, since meat is an expensive treat. 

Each year, the school has a Christmas party with cake, sweets and biscuits as well as soft drink ! In other countries  all these artificial sweeteners etc  would be frowned upon , however for pupils at our school this may well be a once a year treat ! 

Some of the things that our students are looking forward to for Christmas : 

Sosina ( aged 8 ) " I  want to eat popcorn for Christmas ! " 

Eyob  ( age 12 ) – “ I am looking forward to wearing my jacket, shirt and new shoes. “

                        Alazar ( age 7 )  " I can't wait to eat traditional bread. "

Monday, December 2, 2013

Exams, exams, exams !

Someone's eyes were caught wandering ! 

BUSY !!! – that is the only thing I can say about the past couple of weeks ! The main reason for the extreme hive of action  was the arrival of exams. I am not a great fan of exams however they are mandatory here in Ethiopia a whopping 4 times a year  for all pupils – even the tiny 3 year olds who are still in the process of learning how to hold a pencil ! 

With years of practice behind them, the central KG and Grade 1 – 4 school had no difficulties in producing exams which would be useful ( to a certain extent ) in being an assessment tool . However, the new far school teachers had had no experience of producing exams which weren’t multiple choice meaning that there was great confusion all around. 

We had hoped to simply replicate the central examinations in the new school, but since the pupils there have only received a local education they are at least one year behind the pupils at the central English Alive schools who have had a decent education for several years ! This was quite shocking – we knew that pupils would be behind but not to that extent - proving that although not immediately obvious, the education at English Alive is indeed a superior one ! 

This week also saw the start of the Great Christmas Bonanza – a chance for people from all over the world to make a gift with a difference though purchasing something for the school – all with gift certificates available !  Visit our gift shop at :

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Computers, computers, computers !

With the new computers installed, the grade school has now gone computer crazy ! – all pupils talk about are the educational computer games and activities that they have played in the computer suite and we are now working on integrating the computers into other subjects such as science, group reading and maths ! 
      Sockets are currently being installed at the far school and it is hoped that pupils there will get their first interaction with a computer in the next week !
     Computers have remained the lynch pin to the charity this week as well with the launch of our new website which is clear, precise and easy to navigate  - take a look at  !
          The other exciting technological development has been the formation of our very own YouTube channel -
Although it takes a few hours for videos to upload, it is now possible so hope to be adding more in the near future !  Many thanks to our technologically minded volunteer Amy for all her work 
     We end this blog with the sad news that the husband of one of our young teachers passed away after a short illness. With only an estranged family in Addis Ababa and a baby and a young child, she is in desperate need of financial support. The school is doing all it can to support her but we are now urgently seeking a teacher sponsorship  ( To sponsor a teacher for a month costs £35/US$57, or £420/US$676 for the year ) For more information please see our website or contact us directly at

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The computers and ukuleles!

Yet again this week has proved to be a very busy one !! Fortunately we had a day’s holiday on Tuesday for Eid so that gave us a little respite !
Mike – a volunteer from the UK arrived this week to see the schools in action. A qualified accountant, Mike is interested in helping with organising the financial side of the schools as well as helping with fundraising  ! It was fascinating to see the schools from a different perspective and it was incredibly useful to be able to work with him in planning both short and long term – so hoping for a long and productive relationship with him in the next few years !
He was kind enough to bring along 3 ukuleles, which proved to be a huge success ! We will shortly be forming the first Ukulele club in Ethiopia – I just need to practise how to play so that I can teach the pupils !!

Sorting out the 20 new computers !
At the end of the week as we were dropping off Mike at the airport , we popped into  Camara – the Irish organisation that we were working with for the 20 computers . A previous volunteer – Cieran – has worked long and hard organising and raising the funds for the computers and he was as eager as us to get them into the school !  To our surprise upon arrival at Camara, our computers were all ready and waiting for delivery ! As a result we instantly piled the computers into a van and our other volunteer – Amy – is currently in the process of setting them all up ! We can only imagine the pupil’s faces on Monday morning when they arrive to see a fully equipped computer room  !!
The great thing is that the previous five computers can now be transferred over to the new school, Pupils there will never have seen a computer, let alone touched one so they will be learning completely new skills which will give them a very solid foundation for future employment prospects.
Since the new computers have DVD drives, then we will also be able to move across the television and DVD player ( previously donated by a past volunteer – Johanna ) to the new school so that we can show them educational videos. Again, pupils will never have watched a television so that will be another wonderful new experience for them !!!
Can’t wait for next week and see how the pupils all react to all the new and exciting developments !!