International Literacy Day – September 8 2020

‘Learning by radio is fun’

Tigist*, 13, of Ethiopia tunes into classes using a solar-powered radio. Her family was one of 416 in Adwa, Ethiopia, that received solar powered radios from SOS Children’s Villages to help children keep up with their studies.

“It was a headache for me that children had to find new ways of learning after COVID-19 kept us from going to school. My mother could not afford to buy a television or radio for school broadcasts; she was already struggling to feed my little brother and I. Her exact words when I discussed this with her were: ‘education would have to wait’.

“My name is Tigist. I am 13 years old and in grade seven. I go to a public school here in Adwa (a rural community in northern Ethiopia). When I attended school in person, I was among the top 10 students in my class. All this effort would be lost, I thought; I would fall behind and possibly be left discouraged from returning to school.

“I spent most of my days doing household chores with little or no focus on my education, feeling isolated. Then in April, one month after we had been out of school, the SOS team came and supported us with a solar powered radio so I could listen to school broadcasts. I was very excited that day. I felt as if my future had returned to me.

“We do not have a table in our house and so during lessons, I place the radio next to me on the bench that I sit on, then I place the exercise book on my lap and write as much and as quickly as I can to capture most of what the teacher says. The tough situation at home keeps me motivated to study hard to achieve my dreams. That is the only way I will manage to build my mother a better house. We learn English, Tigrigna (local dialect), physics, chemistry, social studies, civics and ethical education. The radio transmission is in Tigrigna and English. Today’s lesson is civic and ethical education.

“Learning on radio is fun. The teachers use easy and clear language and they are very funny. The transition music between lessons keeps me alert and entertained. My only issue with the radio programmes is that I cannot ask questions when I do not understand. My mother does not give me chores when I am studying because she also knows the benefit of education.

“After the broadcast, I carefully place the radio on the roof of our house so the battery can charge from the sunlight. I am glad we do not have to buy batteries because my mother cannot afford them. Her earnings from hawking hardly meet our needs. Many things worry me about our living conditions, but I am glad to say my education does not stress me. I know there is someone to help me with my education even when my mother cannot. I want to someday go to university to become a medical doctor to treat sick people, and improve the health and wellbeing of my community.”

*Name changed to protect the privacy of the child.

Besides radios, families received food packages to help them cope with the effects of COVID-19 on their livelihood, and to discourage them from selling the radios for food.