Yohannes Ashenafi is a 12-year-old student who greets everyone with a warm sunny smile. However, when Yohannes returned to St George's in January after the holidays, he was very withdrawn and not his usual self.
After a thorough investigation carried out by the school’s director, Birara, it emerged that Yohannes’ situation at home had drastically deteriorated. We discovered that an uncle had moved in with Yohannes’ grandmother, where Yohannes lived. Since the uncle’s arrival, Yohannes had been bullied and physically abused. He was being fed very little as the uncle knew he was being fed at school. He was made to do chores and housework and was not allowed to do his school work.
During the semester break, Yohannes ran away to find his mother, who is a drug addict in Gondar. He managed to get to Gondar by local bus without any money. Because of his uniform, people knew he was from St George’s and they contacted a family friend who kept him safe. Birara and Senait, the school nurse, went to visit Yohannes to discuss the situation. The family friend was happy for him to live with her, but he would need transport to get to school. It was agreed that Yohannes could travel with the school bus every day so he could still come to St George's.
Three months down the line and the huge grin which greets us every morning bears little resemblance to the distressed little boy from months earlier. His class teacher confirms that he is one of the top students in his class and he religiously practices his English with us on the bus.
Yohannes tells us that he dreams of being either a pilot or a doctor when he grows up and we have little doubt that he will achieve whatever he puts his mind to. Such a transformation is not only a testament to the resilience of Yohannes but also to the work of St George’s and the support it provides both academically and pastorally.
Staff at St George's saw nine-year-old Emawayish on her first day, beaming with excitement and joy to be able to join her friends from the village in Grade 3. Her mother had been struggling to buy exercise books for her daughter on earnings of £2 a week, the only income she had to support herself and her three children.
It had seemed inevitable that Emawayish would join her teenage sister, and the hundreds of young women and girls already contributing to their family’s finances. Despite the positive changes made in recent years, being female in Ethiopia can put you at an huge disadvantage. Women are far less likely to be given equal opportunities to men when it comes to education.
Although most children enrol in primary school, girls face increasing pressure to support their family by helping with domestic chores such as washing, cooking and fetching water, often placing themselves in danger and at risk of attacks. Many are encouraged to marry at a young age rather than continue with their education.
Several months after her first day at St. George’s, Emawayish is making good progress in all of her lessons and she wears her uniform with pride. Equipped with stationery and books, she can continue with her studies at home and at school she is a keen and motivated pupil. With the invaluable support of St George’s and her teachers, she has the chance to shape her own future.