We have, from time to time, on this forum, discussed about education, water and health related resource issues. One thing we have not put on much emphasis might be the vital issue of the lack of adequate health care provisions. Health care issues are one of the most important issues that cannot be ignored. Without resorting to much detail, I will just throw at you an anecdotal example of what I experienced the last time I was in Ethiopia a few months back.
One hot afternoon, we were returning from a visit of Borana Tuba elementary school, in Cheha Woreda, heading to other schools in Negoder and then in Elas, Eza Woreda, when we saw many people taking rides on vehicles prepared for a funeral. Those who were not part of the funeral, no doubt, thought we were a taxi service and tried to flag us down. As we were heading out of the small village, we were discussing and nursing the heart ache we received from seeing the sad conditions of the Borana Tuba school. Then we observed a young mother, may be 18 or 19 years old, carrying her sick baby boy on her back walking on the gravel and dusty road hurrying to prevent a certain loss. She did not attempt to flag us down but she looked very worried and was walking in a hurry toward her destination, wherever it was. We decided to ask her if she cared for a ride and learned that she was in an emergency for her son. He was so sick and she was determined to take him to the health center somewhere near the Gubryie area. She was in such a desperate rush to set out to walk all the distance in that heat? This was a very young lady, who, if she were one of the luckiest ones, could have been in college. But she became a mother at a very young age. She definitely did not want her son become a statistic among the 157 children dying per 1000 in the Region. The child may have been among the 155 children suffering from acute respiratory problems. It may even have been among the 24% of children who had fever and among the 25% suffering from diarrhea. Needless to say mothers in that environ are also the least to receive care for themselves. Mothers know and understand the torment they go through when their young ones get sick. They have no time to rest during the day or at night. The entire household is on their shoulders. Those mothers who live in the USA, for example, know how easy it can be to call the family doctors or call 9-1-1 when the little ones are sick and in serious danger. The young mother as well as many mothers like her are not that lucky though.
The lesson from this is that there are serious health concerns that must be addressed. Like all other problems, these issues cannot go away by wishing them away. They require a concerted effort to overcome the adversities. The desire to create a healthy and wealthy community demands massive investments in infrastructure through government action, community involvement, and private enterprising. There is something terribly wrong when our people do not get clean water which is the basis of good health. Good health is the source of active participation in the community and therefore prosperity. A healthy and educated community can easily tackle the long term consequences of inadequacies in the society.
Gurda as one concerned entity among many can begin to mobilize the stakeholders. It can only do so if each one of us is willing to take some responsible step to fund the areas where immediate actions warrant immediate results. The easiest and most likely immediate solution is the purchase of some vital medicines to distribute in clinics and health stations. Also subsidizing the purchase of gloves for simple hygiene in the harvesting of kocho, the staple diet of the Guraghe. Again sponsoring studies and awarding scholarships in developing such technologies where efficient and hygienic tools can be used to extract kocho products. Also, how about sponsoring engineering students to design environmentally viable toilet systems? How about encouraging and sponsoring a well-integrated city planning that looks to the future by addressing all issues involved in developing the power, water, sewage, communication, road, housing, commercial, industrial etc. needs of the villages and the towns? These are big things that Gurda cannot and, in my opinion, will not and should not attempt to tackle in massive proportions given its limited resources and manpower at the moment. But Gurda can do some things. Keeping in line with the vision and mission, Gurda can become a conduit and a focal point to raise funds and galvanize forces to change the way we look at the infrastructure to build a self-sufficient and self-reliant Guraghe community. To achieve that goal, your undivided support is always welcome, and we have to always be on the same page.
We must succeed!
Looking to the Future
We will have this year’s first membership meeting on Sunday, April 17 at 11 am (Pacific Time). I hope this meeting will give you an expanded view of the original intent for Gurda and the need for it to continue. As we are looking ahead and gearing up to launch our year 2016 fundraising campaign for the purpose of changing the worst conditions of our community schools, water and health provisions, we must look back and count our blessings on the things that helped us spring forward.
First and foremost, the leadership would like to thank our number one blessing—YOU—our celebrated members. If it were not for you, we could not even be here today to tell you of a great story—a story of the birth of a child of promise that is Gurda. Gurda’s vision is grand; its leaders are so humble and simple, like all of us. We are simple alright but not simplistic. We cherish our positions of responsibility you have given us. We take our responsibility seriously. That is why our landmark project, Project 1 is set to break ground soon, God willing. As we are tying the loose ends of bureaucratic necessities for Government approval at this moment, we are proceeding in making a firm commitment to organize and mobilize more and more to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. I do not have to remind us all we are a very backward country in terms of provisions of necessities for a modest living. It will take years but the job has begun by our parents and grandparents. Nevertheless, the work must continue and we are the heirs of this grand responsibility.
Project 1, we believe, should begin construction, if not before the end of the year, probably by the beginning of the next. We understand that you know just throwing money to build a boarding school is not sufficient reason for celebration. We believe it is a serious life-long investment and commitment to raise children with visual and hearing challenges so they can, in the long run, lead a successful and worthy living. Our goal is to build a facility that can provide a world class education and life skills preparation in a world class facility. Our beginning is modest. We have no doubt it will grow.
To that effect, we have undertaken certain steps to fulfill the dreams of those who benefit from the facility, those who would run the facility, those who fund the facility, and those who monitor the entire operation. Here they are those steps in no particular order:
You have made such a great job of getting Gurda this far. But this is just the beginning. Project 1 is just the first of Gurda’s multiple projects that are waiting in the wings. If we only understand our mission and vision, then we know Gurda is not supposed to be a one great project author and implementer. We cannot allow Gurda to become a one hit wonder. While we are concluding one phase of Gurda’s school for the Visually and Hearing Impaired, we have to be prepared for embarking on a plan for maintaining and upgrading the school’s day to day operation as well as seeking other vitally important projects in our communities.
Where are we heading? What are we looking ahead in 2017?
If you happen to visit the rural Guraghe areas (for that matter rural areas of Ethiopia), an indelible mark of poverty and dilapidation will be impressed on your mind. If you happen to be in such areas, please stop by the neighborhood schools and ask for their needs. You may be surprised by what you may find to help them with. Speak with the local school committee members, if there are any, to show you the places. You will realize our schools are totally dilapidated, inadequately furnished, no laboratories, no libraries, no books, not sufficient bathrooms, no drinking water, no lighting, no health facilities, no playgrounds, on top of that, kids come from distant places, and all children lack nutritious snacks or foods. Yet we see an astounding commitment of the Guraghe in building their own schools. There is a dire need of potable water. Water provisions may be the most important source for good hygiene and health. The situation deems it to be an EMERGENCY. When there is emergency it is a reasonable expectation to take drastic actions to change the situation. Gurda, through its country representative organization, is planning to work with our people on various projects they deem to be essential for the community’s future and growth. They want to work on schools, water systems and health care issues. We are all contributing to change a community for the betterment of the future society. We are not here to create dependency; we are to aid in self-reliance. We are not intent on pushing what we want and desire to see. We are to support as part of that body to participate on the defined needs that come from them. We all know five fingers make a fist. Let us each become the fingers that make the fists that is Gurda. Only then can we knock down the stubborn challenges our community faces.
Simple Goals for 2017
As mentioned above our fund raising this year, will cover programs
Gurda: a promise to keep!
The Big Picture: Self-Reliance
I want to make my messages clear—clear enough—for I am inviting you, fellows, to declare war. We must declare war on the inadequacy of resources for proper education. Reasonable facilities, class sizes, good teachers, and educational materials matter. If the goal is creating a responsible and resourceful society, education is the only and indispensable route to take. In the scheme of things, without an educated public there is no development and self-reliance.
We cannot afford to ignore the reality that over 50% of a Guraghe household (nearly 3 out of 5 people) is missing out in good education that could become a ticket to improve their lives. Even more disturbing is the lower participation rate of girls in schools. To gain some perspective, Guraghe households own about 0.5 hectare (almost 50% less than the Nation’s 1.01 hectare, and smaller than that in the Southern Nations and Nationalities Region, which is 0.89 hectare). That is the reality that has been driving the migration of the Guraghes in search of opportunities in other areas of the country for so long. The growth of the population and the inadequacy of arable land will exacerbate the exodus. Exodus without the skills to earn a living will endanger the people and the nation. But an educated and a skillful labor force will be employable anywhere. That is what could make the society transform into an educated and self-reliant community. For that to happen, the seeds of development must be sown now, and without delay. That in a sense is a major reason why Gurda was formed.
If we desire to change the current picture, if at all we care, we must treat it as an emergency as well as an existential threat. We must run an urgent and massive campaign for more student enrollment, scholar search, quality teacher training and development, repair and refurbishing of dilapidated schools, building new schools, equipping schools, providing learning and teaching materials, developing libraries and laboratories, access to computers, provision of extracurricular activities, school clinics, water facilities, adequate latrines – in short, we must be working to develop new and improved school infrastructure without expecting anybody else to do it for us.
The next 10 to 15 years must produce an educated and skilled workforce and human capacity that will serve the entire nation. That educated workforce only can lead us to the land of self-reliance and dependable future. If this is also your concern, I ask you to express it in action. Get involved! Know that it requires massive collaboration and investments. Anything less will absolutely be a pathetic attempt in obfuscation of the dangers we as a society are facing. We must therefore declare war on the lack of education, which begins with the lack of adequate infrastructure or poor infrastructure, and miseducation. We cannot, however, wage the war without recognizing the gravity of the abject conditions. We have to promise to make a generational difference today for tomorrow! Seeing the big picture will help us patiently and methodically bring out communities to the promise of excellence and self-reliance.
We must succeed!