Lycee Guebre Mariam was still taking shape when the first students set foot onto the new High School campus in the spring of 1948.
Churchill Road hadn’t yet been completed, and Eucalyptus were still prevalent.
The school was established by, the St Gabriel brother, Félix de Nole, who arrived in Addis Ababa, in order to open the first Franco-Ethiopian primary school aimed to prepare Foreign and Ethiopian students for the primary school leaving certificate. Sixty five years later, generations of young students, Ethiopians, French, and over 40 other nationalities have gone through the schools; many graduating with a Baccalaureat.
The campus, once landscaped with plants younger than the students, had at its beginning a student body of 176 and six elementary classes. Now the halls are filled with over a thousand young learners.
Among the first students who got enrolled at the Lycee in March 1948, was Ato Worku Tadesse, a retired Medical Technologist who worked at the UNECA for 23 years. Ato Worku came to celebrate his old school’s 65th years, last week with a group of ‘Anciens Lyceens’ (alumni’s) that filed into the Sheraton Addis for a Gala evening of fun, dancing and reminiscence, on Thursday May 16.
“The celebration of this 65th anniversary is first an occasion to come together to show our attachment, I would nearly say our affection, for this exceptional institution that has been playing such an important role in the last 65 years in the service of Ethiopia, in the service of the friendship between our two countries but also of the francophonie in the capital of Africa that Addis Ababa is today,” said H.E. Mrs. Brigitte Collet, Ambassador of France, at the event.
“It’s hard to ever have one favourite memory of, you know, over 12 great years, some of the greatest years of your life,” said one former student during the dinner, reflecting on his time at the LGM. “I still remember the lab,” said another “We probably had a great lab, better than any of the local schools. It was better equipped with teaching tools, and the teacher wrote their own lectures.”
The bash drew nearly 250 graduates, their families and friends, as well as former teachers and staff.
“Tonight the memories will take a great deal of the conversation, but this event also notes the future as it marks a new start for the school to continue its good work in education,” Mr. Jean-Pierre Pasquiou, the school’s headmaster said, noting the success of the institution. The term ‘Lycee’ in French indicates high school, but in Ethiopia, it represents “the most prestigious and most quoted school of our country,” said Dr. Amakeletch Teferi – President, of the AALGM – The Association of former students of the Lycee Guebre Mariam, in her opening speech.
Talking about the future of the school, Ambassador Brigitte Collet appreciated the role of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who had been instrumental to the signing of a new Franco-Ethiopian agreement in June, ensuring the sustainability of the Lycée. The Lycee was also discussed between PM Hailemariam Desalegn and President François Hollande, during Hailemariam’s recent visit to Paris.
The French Government pours yearly 4 million Euro to the LGM, close to 2,500 Euro per student. LGM is part of a large network, with over 480 institutions, and 310,000 plus students of all nationalities in 130 countries worldwide.
Jean-Paul Négrel, representative of the Directorate of the Agency for French Teaching Abroad, on his part thanked all who have chosen to entrust their children to a an education in the French model. A model he said, that takes into account the specificities of each country, and noted the quality of the teachers at the LGM. He further noted the great resilience of the staff and administration of the school in difficult situations and hailed the efforts made by all stakeholders to ensure that the facility continues to meet modern requirements and standards of safety.
Thursday’s event was one of the commemorative celebrations and get together of the 65th anniversary of the Lycee Guebre Mariam that started on April 5th with the awards ceremony to the winners of the dictation contest chaired by Ambassador Libere Bararunyeretse, Permanent Representative of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie to the AU and ECA.
On April 12, another commemorative event, the ‘Intercultural Day’ was organized by the LGM students of different nationalities.
Future programs include an Open Day organized in the school on Saturday 5th October, with various exhibitions, pedagogic presentations, testimonies and round table discussions of alumnae and experts. On Saturday 14 December, the school will host a colourful festival that includes sports competitions, spectacles and a gala.
And finally, the celebrations will culminate with the publication of a souvenir book that contains photos, texts of testimony of Lycee alumnae, tributes to the departed as well as the LGM alumni directory, organized in collaboration with the AALGM. Dr. Amakeletch, representing the Association, said she hopes that “the book will provide an opportunity to many to reminisce but also to put in messages for the future generations pertaining to their experiences and thoughts on the LGM.”
She called all former students to send photos, texts, memories to be published in the book, and invited all to take part in the event that will be organized in December 2013 to launch the publications marking the end of the celebrations of the 65th anniversary.
The evening was entertained with old school photos screening and master of ceremony Dr. Elias Abishakra’s jokes. It’s been interesting to see how much the school has changed. Looking at old pictures and the way people used to dress was pretty entertaining.
“You can see the diversity in the classes as you look through the pictures. I think having such a diverse student body enriches your experience here and prepares you well for the work force,” a parent said.
The evening was sponsored by BGI-Ethiopia, Castel Winnery, Ambo Waters, Sheraton and GALICA Roses, whose flowers were gracefully arranged to adorn the tables thanks to Mrs. Zerfeshewal Seyefou, former LGM student.