Ethiopia Children and School

Lots of kids

In Ethiopia – as in many other African countries – the birth rate is high. That’s what you call it when a woman has many children. Unlike us, there is no pension or health insurance. Anyone getting old or sick must be able to rely on someone to take care of them.

These are just the children that parents have in the course of their lives. And since many children die very early, the women have many children so that some of them can survive. But this abundance of children leads many people into poverty at the same time.

Early marriages

In Ethiopia, girls often have to marry very young. You are only 15 years old and you are getting married. Why do the parents allow this?

Many Ethiopians are very poor and have so many children to support that they are happy to see a daughter now being cared for by a man. Often there are several younger children in the family who have to be looked after at the same time. And a married daughter no longer costs the family anything.

This is bad because the rights of children are not being protected. Girls are actually not allowed to marry until they are 18. This becomes particularly dangerous when they have children very early. Young girls are much more likely to die in childbirth than adult women. The children’s chances of survival are also lower.

AIDS orphans

There are also many orphans in Ethiopia who have lost their parents to AIDS. Many children live on the streets and are exposed to the dangers of assault.

Child labor is widespread. Many children work in agriculture to help their parents, but also as street children in the big cities. Nobody cares about them here. They have to provide for their own livelihood and sometimes the older siblings also have to support the younger ones somehow.

Children learned from parents and grandparents

There is no school in the early history of Ethiopia. What the children needed to know was passed on to boys and girls from their parents and grandparents. The children had to give their parents a hand. Boys worked in the fields or looked after the animals. Girls helped around the house, helped the mothers fetch water or looked after their younger siblings. There was little time left for school.

Reading and writing – but not for everyone

The Christian Church found its way into Ethiopia early on and with it at least attempts to teach children how to read and write. But this was initially reserved for the children of the nobility. The poor children were still not studying at school.

At the end of the 19th century, Western educational methods continued to spread, but were still reserved for rich people who sent their children to schools or employed private tutors to teach the offspring. However, even then the girls were left out. Their role was further limited to the household, maybe a little sewing and embroidery was added.

School today

Today the school system consists of one elementary school that lasts eight years, the Primary School. Then follows two years of middle school, also called secondary school, and finally the upper school of two years, which is then called high school.

Teaching is in the respective language of the region. The first foreign language is Amharic or English if Amharic is already spoken as the mother tongue in a region. The Amharic alphabet is different from our Latin, but children in Ethiopia have to learn both. In the upper school the children learn English.

Major subjects are math, languages, science, and geography. But the children also learn a lot of practical things, for example how to create a garden.

Few children finish school

There are now many primary schools in Ethiopia, but mostly they are very small and offer only a few rooms. Often 50 to 100 students sit in a class with a teacher. Even though most children start school, only a small proportion go to school for long periods or finish school with a degree.

Not even half of the children finish primary school. And only a small part goes to secondary school. 50 out of 100 children cannot read or write and 36 out of 100 adults cannot either. There are also great differences between the children who live in the country or in the city. In rural areas, children often have a long way to school.


Long distance running

Many successful long-distance and especially marathon runners come from Ethiopia. They are not only successful in their own country, but also in international competitions. They have even won many medals at the Olympic Games. A well-known runner who came from Ethiopia was Abebe Bikala. He was able to win the first ever African gold medal in Rome in 1960 and set a world record several times.

The most famous runner from Ethiopia is a man named Haile Gebrselassiee. He was able to win gold twice at the Olympics and was several times world champion over 10,000 meters. Time and again, runners from Ethiopia are very successful internationally.


In addition to running, there are other popular sports in Ethiopia, such as genna, which is a form of hockey. It is often played at the Ethiopian Christmas festival, which always takes place on January 7th.

The following link leads to instructions for making a Genna game.

Ethiopia Schools