Tessema Bitew currently works in the Finance Department for the Honda production plant in Alliston, Ont. He is a Canadian immigrant who knows first-hand the challenges of getting an education. As a young boy living in Ethiopia, he walked barefoot along a stoney path to school every day. The distance was about an hour each direction. His parents both died when he was a teenager and in turn, taken in by his uncle who fortunately lived in a town that had a High School. This enabled him to complete grade 12 and get into university.
Involvement with DevXchange
Now as a Volunteer Project Leader with DevXchange he often reflects back to the times in his villag,e and the friends that were unable to continue their education simply because their families could not afford the Preparatory School (grade 11 & 12) fees and boarding costs. Although primary school and university tuition is free in Etheopia, students still need to pay for uniforms and school supplies. Surprisingly though, Preparatory School is not free. Students must first pass grade 10 exams and then are responsible for their own tuition, school supplies and in many cases boarding costs for Preparatory School as these schools are not located in rural areas.
A few years ago, Tessema and his committee members (Yihun A. Belay, Tessema Bitew, Temesgen T. Birru, Zelalem Mengistu) were elected to head Gojjam Development Association in Canada. This association supports humanitarian and development endeavors in Ethiopia. Tessema and his colleagues decided to do what they could to help those less fortunate in their country of origin and began contributing to a scholarship fund, initiated and pioneered by Dr. Abraham Bekele. Dr. Bekele currently resides in the U.S. and is heading up fundraising initiatives there while Yohannes Zeleke administrates the sponsorship fund in Ethiopia.
L.I.F.E. Scholarship Project Criteria
Qualified students are selected from 30 High Schools within the Gojjam Region of Ethiopia. Ultimately, the vision is to expand to all regions of the country. In each participating High School, a selection committee is organized consisting of the Head Master, 2 teachers, 2 students and 2 community members.
Criteria for selection includes:
the student must come from an impoverished family
the student must have high marks
at least 25% of the students must be female (this last criteria is the hardest to meet and many High Schools cannot participate because they have such a low female enrolment)
Historical L.I.F.E. Project Success
The first year scholarships were given to 100 students. In the second year of the program, GDA continued to support the 100 (now in grade 12) and added 50 more students to the program. Last year they increased the total number of students receiving a scholarship to 200. Of the 100 students who received scholarships in 2005, 60 students scored 4.0 out of 4.0 GPA in the Ethiopia School Leaving Examination. All of them graduated and have gone on to university.
Future L.I.F.E. Project Success
This year the Gojjam Development Assoc. (G.D.A.) hopes to provide scholarships for 300 students. Of this financial commitment, 50% will be raised in Ethiopia by the Gojjam Development Association. The Canadian committee of G.D.A., operating through DevXchange, has met their goal annually since 2008. By raising $5,000 every year, G.D.A. has had enough resources to sponsor 30 students per year. Preparatory School is a critical stage for Ethiopian students and only 15% of the youth pass through this into university.
For more information check out the links below!