Luck of the Have-nots
If there is one thing that breaks a colleague of mine’s heart, it’s the fact that her children prefer watching movies instead of reading books. She won’t have been 10 years old when she witnessed her classmates being tortured and killed infront of her very eyes for reading pieces of paper they found on the ground. But she kept on reading anyway, at the privacy of her house, and in the shield of darkness. Because reading was a culture in her family! The shelf, laden with books, was the only eye-catching furniture you see upon entering her parents’ house! Books were the “anTura habt”s of her older brothers. And the only thing they asked of anybody inquiring what to bring them from abroad!
Her favorite childhood memories are book-related as well. She fondly remembers those kids of 14-16 years old (most of them killed at the Iihapa time), who poured over their Marxist/Lennist volumes every night next to a “permuz” full of tea and a bundle of “chaat”. She fears that’s when Ethiopia lost all her intellectuals, her “golden kids” so to say. Which is why nothing anybody says or does these days surprises her. At 41, she’s become one of those cynic ole timers who do nothing but talk about the good days in which students thurst after knowledge, and teachers swapped books.
When I read about the new government-proposed education policy, and it’s implications, on Addis Neger’s previous 2 publications, it’s her sadness that came to my mind. Her sadness and mine every time i entered a taxi and hear heated arguments of soccer fans (or “men and women whose mind has turned into mush due to being repeatedly hit on the head by a foot ball”, as I like to put it! It’s more poetic in amharic). And the heart-break I feel for those unfortunate kids at government schools every time my high-school-teacher university classmates opened their mouth to speak.
“70/30”, as the policy is being referred to nowadays, is easier to understand than it looks. With it, the government has proposed higher education institutions receive, starting 2001 E.C., 70% of their students for Natural Science studies and 30% of them for Social Science studies. The idea, atleast on paper, is to produce more scientists and engineers who would be of help in the “Millennium development goal”. The real agenda however, according to the responses of the various interviews Addis Neger conducted with the parties concerned (parties the government refused to consult with and is said to demand they shut up and do what they are told) is punishing the many politically active university lecturers of the past 17 years and creating a generation of students that would never ask questions. More “ArAt Kilo” instead of “Sidist Kilo” [university], so to say.
Neither Addis Neger, nor the above mentioned parties, are against the policy per ce. Would have been acceptable, they’ve said, if it was given enough time to work its way through the existing education system (a system that enrolls 60% of it’s students into the Social Science Department and 40% to the Natural Science Department) with as little damage to all as possible. The existence of little or no market for Natural Science Graduates; the need to create an environment in which the very technical-by-nature Natural Science could be implemented, not to mention all the teachers/instructors of Social Science studies who would be laid off if change should take pre-maturely are given as major hindrances for a quick shift from the present education policy into the proposed new. According to these sources, it’s taken Korea more than 30 years to adopt the 70/30 education system fully. The same Korea our government has said it’s copying the policy from! But using a method, they complained, very much like taking the “soil” with the “plant” & is doomed to fail!
Vengeance may or may not be the agenda behind the proposed new education policy (I’d like to think not, for I can’t imagine a more successful way to drag the country decades back than “Dergue” has done), but you don’t have to be a genius, or involved in Education, to know what a total mess this is going to be. And to “woe” the generation that would have to pay for it!
Is it possible that St. Mark was referring to us when he wrote on 4:25 of his gospel: “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”?! Seems to be the reality for so many areas of our lives after “Mircha 97”.
Heaven help us! More importantly, Heaven help our kids!