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 !!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

School year now well underway !

Running 3 schools is a bit like the difference between  having 1 and 2 children – it should only be twice the amount of work but somehow it is 3 times as much !
As a result, we are all very busy trying to organise the 3 different compounds ( and 4 schools ) so that the limited resources are evenly spread and that there are enough supplies for everyone everywhere !

Amy and her wonderful donation of school supplies
Fortunately we have Amy – from the UK here to volunteer for the three months – so it is wonderful to have an extra pair of hands to help organise and team teach as well as develop curriculums etc.

The central Kindergarten school this year has had a sudden influx of nursery pupils ( the 3 year olds ) thus we have had to split the class into two and move the other classes all around to get everyone fitted in. This has meant the employment of a new nursery teacher – Tigest who is working wonderfully with the challenge of learning the new system whilst at the same time organising 25 pupils into their first ever school routine.

In the central grade school we are currently awaiting the arrival of 20 computers so busy finalising the new tables and chairs and the power supply ready for their arrival !

At the new far school pupils are slowly trickling in – we now have about 60 pupils in the school with others still coming every day. All of the pupils haven’t had experience of toys before thus this first week has been showing pupils how to play with the toys, how to paint, stick etc  - which they soon got the hang of after initial demonstrations and encouragement !

A few days ago we were awarded the license for the autism centre so now to start the organisation and train teachers. We are fortunate that an old volunteer – Lucy is involved with an autism school in the UK so she is kindly helping us out with ideas and information.

The beginning of the school year is always a busy time – but this year it is the busiest yet – a challenge admittedly but so much such fun at the same time !
Learning about toy cars !

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The new far school

All go here ! – unbelievable that despite planning everything  there is always a  hundred and one things left to do at the last minute !  Although the central grade and KG school were all ready to start on time on Monday, the toilets for the new school were still under construction thus the school opening had to be delayed until the Wednesday.
It was extremely exciting to open the doors to the new school ( kindergarten – grade 4 ) and reminiscent of the past when English Alive was very first opened. Children had to be encouraged and shown how to play with the toys, having had no experience of toys before – after school if they are not helping with the animals or the household then their toys are restricted to finding  a bottle top or two and making their own game from them.
The grade school desks - as they were left - soon to be put into groups !
Our biggest problem has been the lack of resources – in the end we managed to borrow some tables, chairs and desks from the school that the building was previously rented to – but this is on a limited time frame. Although the KG chairs and tables are fine, there are only desks with attached benches for the grade school – making it very hard to work as groups and to even put the toys on to play with since the desks slope !
Just as we were getting into it all and starting to set up a little routine, there was a sudden announcement from the government that all schools had to be closed for training  for a week ! Ironically the subject to be focussed upon is planning !

This is quite frustrating since it takes time for pupils and teachers to get settled in – especially for the very young ones first starting school ! However, on the positive side this means that we have more time to sort out the new school – trying to eke out the limited toys and books that we have between the schools , write training plans and finalise the very basic toilets.
The KG classroom - rather empty at the moment ! 

Friday, August 30, 2013

All go !

Summer times are usually a period of rest and revitalisation with just the summer schools and getting tax returns ready for the New Year ( at the beginning of September – it will soon be 2006 ! ) However, this year is the complete opposite and everyone is now busy racing around to get the new schools ready !

When setting up a new school it is not the big things that are the problem – the obvious things like getting tables and chairs made, hiring new teachers and making the playground usable – instead it is the million and one little things- the light sockets falling off the wall, the windows that don’t close, getting pots for pencils etc that seem to be eating up the time !

There really are a million and one things that need to be purchased from the huge ( swings and slides , tables and chairs) to the tiny ( scissors and pencils ) and funds are now getting really tight ! 

Ideally, we need a bus to transport the children since our current bus is already used so we are currently at the stage of considering whether to sell our own private car and buy a school bus with that money – but this is difficult since it is always good to have a car in case of emergencies ( with two young children there are always emergencies ! ) – and of course, to get a bus would need additional funds – so we will wait and see !

Training will be one of the biggest challenges, since English Alive teaches in a way that is directly opposite to what teachers have been taught at college ! – instead of the rote learning and concept that the teacher is an all knowing power , we encourage pupils to explore and experiment, to know that the teacher is a human and someone to guide rather than dictate !

To get teachers up to speed, we propose only half days for the first week at the far school, giving teachers the opportunity to learn in situ through discussion and observation in the central schools thereby giving them at least a kick start !

To help things along we are shortly anticipating the arrival of Amy – our volunteer from the UK. She is a trained teacher so should be able to provide enormous help as we speed around from one school to another !

Although exhausting and expensive, the setting up of the new schools and getting ready for the start of the new school year is incredibly appreciated – with the real previous threat of the grade 1 – 4 closing down  it really brought to the forefront of our minds how much we love the school and our way of life and has given us new enthusiasm knowing that we are doing what we feel is best !