This year was a very busy one, with lots of very exciting changes and a very successful future to look forward to.
The year was off to a flying start with the highest ever number of pupils – a whopping 197 (up from about 150 last year) This meant that there was an initial scramble to have additional tables and chairs made, although we couldn’t afford too many new ones so for some of the grade classes it was a case of putting one child on the end of each table rather than making new ones.
For the nursery class, we had to move some of the children to the library which had to be converted into a classroom to hold all of the pupils, with the timetable being totally rearranged so that the library could still be used whenever necessary.
With so many pupils coming from the outskirts of Nazaret, a school bus was imperative, with Fraser ( a previous volunteer) kindly donating the last little bit when our collected funds had run out.
Along with the influx of pupils came a senior manager – Adanech, who has over 20 years teaching experience. With impressive ideas and a definite skill in coordinating, Adanech soon settled into the grade compound, organising the new systems for the year and dramatically improving the discipline system with the introduction of the star of the week – a board in the playground where each week a pupils name from each class is displayed. This causes great pride in the weekly winner and gives each child a real incentive to try their very best.
For the grade classes, a systemic phonics system was set up to try to address the current reading problem that pupils have, with this being reinforced with daily reading sessions for the younger ones. Our book collection was increased this year through a very kind donation by Troy from the USA meaning that although there are still only limited books, everyone can have access to a variety and find something that they want to read.
Educationally, perhaps our biggest achievement this year was the formation of a I.T. suite with thanks to Fraser and family. Although basic, currently consisting of two computers, no printer or internet access, this was a huge leap into the technological age for the school and will provide pupils will good basic skills which will eventually help them with future employment.
We have been incredibly lucky this year with our volunteers, having an almost steady stream of people, all willing and enthusiastic and offering varying areas of expertise. We always marvel at how kind people are to leave their luxuries behind, jump on a plane and face the hardships of Nazaret, with its limited water supply , power cuts and dry heat. However, if you ask volunteers, then they would answer that the positives of two hundred smiling happy faces each and every day , the thirst for knowledge ( from both children and teachers ) and the general integration into Ethiopian life more than makes up for these inconveniences .
On a personal level, the biggest change this year was at long last giving up my job. As followers of the blog would have been glaringly aware, my job in Addis Ababa at a local school was frustrating and poorly paid, with the ever increasing needs of English Alive compounding this frustration. As a result, on 1st January I gave up the job and focussed all of my energies on English Alive.
This additional time meant that at long last I could concentrate on making the school a charity since this would significantly increase our chances of obtaining grants. We had looked at the process on and off for several years, but never seemed to have time to fully complete the forms and get the process underway. However, in March we were successful and the charity Ethiopian Schools for the Poor was officially formed.
Once charitable status had been achieved, the process of fundraising started, which proved to be an incredibly complicated job ! On my own it would have been an impossible task, yet we were lucky enough to have a volunteer who was a fundraising expert – Paula from the USA , who guided me through every minute detail and made a steady path for me to follow.
As a result, we now have an ongoing sponsorship programme in which individual pupils can be sponsored for a year for £ 140 / $ 227 thereby making a huge difference to the lives of so many needy children. Many children are now sponsored and this has been backed up with numerous donations of items and cash, enabling English Alive to change a maximum number of children’s lives for the better.
Through the sponsorship programme, children such as Mikias have now been given hope for the future.
Mikias – aged 8, currently in grade 2.
We first made contact with Mikias when his very old grandmother came to the school in a desperate state. Both his mother and father had died of aids, as well as many other members of his family, leaving his grandmother as the only living relative. Too old to work, Mikias’ grandmother was faced with a desperate situation of either putting Mikias in an orphanage to receive an education or gaining a full scholarship. Through gaining a sponsorship at English Alive Academy were Mikias has been educated at the school as well as receiving free textbooks , school uniform and transportation.
Mikias’ future is uncertain. With the old grandmother rapidly aging with the additional pressures of attempting to feed and clothe the two of them, we can only hope that she does not pass away before Mikias is old enough to look after himself , with there being a desperate need for Mikias to work hard and gain an excellent education at English Alive Academy , so that in the future he is able to get a decent job and support himself.
However, there are still hundreds of children out there struggling, so please be aware that the sponsorship programme is very much up and running – constantly looking for those who want their money to make a real difference.
Our new website was launched this Spring ( www.englishaliveacademy.org ) which was very kindly designed by Paul who managed to get a professional website up and running despite the limited input from the Ethioipan side due to the difficulties in sending photographs and files.
This is backed up with the ongoing blog (www.englishaliveacademy.blogspot.com ) which is kindly run by Julie from the USA and the new facebook site – Ethiopian Schools for the Poor - English Alive Academy – which has 173 members and is ever growing as well as our online donation page - www.thebiggive.org.uk
Thus, with an ever increasing range of events such as the car draw ( www.smallcahritycardraw.co.uk ), parachute jumping (www.skydive-zone.co.uk) and a forthcoming music festival in Ghent, English Alive Academy is striving forward in leaps and bounds and we look forward to yet another successful year in 2011/12. But of course, much of our success is due to the ongoing interest and support of many people - many thanks to all of you – we appreciate it beyond all.
Ethiopian Schools for the Poor - English Alive Academy
Registered Charity Number 1140681