27 July 2011: Severe drought and rising food prices in southern Ethiopia are increasingly forcing girls out of school and into work as families struggle to meet their food needs.
A recent Plan assessment in Leku, Shebedino, shows that many girls are dropping out of school because their families can’t afford to pay their school fees. Girls, rather than boys, are most likely to lose out on their education as they are held responsible for helping to feed their families.
Sisters Meskerem, 12, and Senait, 16, have recently left school to make pottery products. They work a gruelling 12-hour day to produce baking plates, which they sell to buy food.
“Since we cannot afford the school fees, we have no choice but to stop going to school and focus our full attention to work and feed the family,” says Meskerem.
“If any assistance arrives and lifts us out of this situation, we will return to school and pursue our education very well so that we will achieve what we want to be in the future - doctors,” says Senait.
Shibre, 13, has also stopped going to school so she can take care of her 5 younger brothers and make up for the loss of their breadwinner father.
“Under the present circumstances, attending school is unthinkable, because I and my mother have to work very hard to produce as many pottery products as possible and sell them to feed the family,” she says.
Through education programmes, Plan has been working with Ethiopian public schools to help keep children in school. In Shebedino alone, Plan has supported 38 children to stay in education by covering the costs of their school fees, books and stationery.
Plan is also providing vulnerable children with school meals. The school feeding programmes encourage parents to keep their children in school and not send them out to work.