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The first University Preparation Camp (UPC) envisioned to prevent drop-outs of female students in universities has been launched on 6 December, 2012 at Eshetu Chole Hall of the Addis Ababa University, FBE Campus.
Ethiopia that put higher education and adult education as key priorities under its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) recognizes that young women face significant challenges within the education system. One manifestaion of the challenges faced by especially new university entrant ethiopian young women is their high drop-out rate especially in the natural science and engineering disciplines, according to Endale Shewangizaw, Advisor to the State Minister of Education. Some of the root causes of this and other negative impacts on women’s life are the community attitudes, traditional division of labor at home, financial dependency, gender disparity and the like. The advisor, said the government has come to understand that young women face different significant challenges in the education system. “Due to this, females are given special focus and protection in the constitution. Goals were also set to improve access including efforts to address issues that limit girls’ and women’s enrollment,” he said.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with Peace Corps Ethiopia, Education Development Center (EDC), FHi-360, the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Women, Youth and Children (MoWYC) and the three universities Addis Ababa, Adama and Jimma Universities, is administering the project as a pilot program. USAID has budgeted about eight hundred thousand USD from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The UPC is a three year partnership with three Ethiopian universities designed to identify successful strategies to support young women coping with the demands of university life so they are able to successfully complete their degree and gain the opportunities available to university graduates. This pilot pre camp will lead to an increase in the number of female professionals whose contribution is essential to the progress of Ethiopia’s economic and social development.
The main training topics at the UPC include academic and life skills, HIV/AIDS awareness and preventing, reproductive health, hygiene, English language and study skills, time management, self-esteem, leadership, and positive relationships. After the initial training, the UPC will continue to provide mentoring for the female students during their university life. The experience of the first participants in this reparation camp will serve as a model for future participants. It will also expand in a number of universities across Ethiopia.
Currently, UPC is reaching out some 500 females who are new university entrants from the three partner universities with the figure due to increase to 2,250 in the third year of the pilot program.
“The prep camp will provide continued counseling in your first year of university and you should know you have the support and the encouragement of the American people. Seize the opportunity,” Donald E. Booth, US Ambassador to Ethiopia, said to students at the launching ceremony. “It will be worth the sacrifice now for a bright future for yourselves, your families and the community, and ultimately for your country.”
Alko Nigussie and Alem Meaza, who are pre-engineering students at AAU, told Capital that they are so sad that there seems to be such a problem of females dropping out or being dismissed from universities. “I am disappointed about it,” Alko said. But she feels this kind of program is really important to push girls to try harder and focus on their education”. Alem says, after the training, she has decided to only focus on her education and mentoring other new students from now on.
Addis Ababa University is implementing different programs aimed at enhancing academic achievement of students in general and female students in particular via tutorial programs, financial support for needy female students, scholarship, psycho-social support (guidance service, trainings on life skills, study skills, gender assertiveness and leadership), retention program and remedial programs, Admasu Tsegaye (PhD, Assoc. Prof.), President of the A.A University told attendants of the launching ceremony.