Written by, Alan Taylor
On 13 March 2017, (or 4 Makawit 2009 according to the Ethiopian calendar) I visited Dudmegn Elementary School with Zemene from the Gondar office. The bus journey took 2½ – 3 hours each way, passing through varied countryside full of agricultural incident and activity – stolid oxen bearing a large hump above balanced by large oxhood beneath, kids frolicking by a water course, sheep and cattle heads down grazing the flush of grass brought about by recent rains, donkeys meandering without notice across the road, grain being threshed in the villages.
The school has 80 teachers and 2255 students in grades 1-8. It is set in an extensive compound, with mud walled classrooms, some clad in corrugated iron to protect the mud from rain, and several in need of repair.
We went to look at three projects undertaken by Link using money donated by the Mandala Trust, the Gondar Association of Medical Students, and the Tula Trust.
First, we admired the new tapstand, a robust construction with several taps over channels leading to a drain. Unfortunately water is available locally on only one or two days per week. Despite the intermittent supply the school has noticed that the number of children going home for water at break and not returning has greatly diminished. Attendance and concentration have improved.
Next we visited the toilet block built last year: solidly constructed pit latrines with three cubicles for girls on one side, two for boys and one for teachers on the other. Despite the water supply problems the school manages to keep them relatively clean, and the improvement has been striking. Children no longer use the compound as a toilet, a pervading smell of rotting excrement has disappeared, and the number of flies has been greatly reduced.
We also looked at the small mango orchard, previously neglected but now fenced, carefully tended, and full of baby mangoes which in a few months will be harvested and sold to augment the school coffers. Some local farmers had even visited the school to learn about good mango-farming practice.