The Sagome Learning Center is an important part of the community in Wolkite, Ethiopia. It provides pre-school and kindergarten programs and enriched learning for students in primary classes up to Grade 8. So, when students write national tests to go on to high school and later university and post-secondary programs they are well prepared.
The school prepares its students to take leadership roles in their communities and nation, by first laying a strong foundation at the primary school level. Scholarships ensure that a learning program is available to students in the community regardless of their family’s financial position.
Located in Wolkite, a Zonal capital town with a population of 42,812 in the Gurage Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), of Ethiopia, the school is about two hours by road south west of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.
The Sagome Learning Center helps to support the work of an over-crowded and under-funded public school system. Ethiopia’s elementary education is free and mandatory for all students but many are very crowded; in some areas, children attend half-days only. In Wolkite, the town’s rapid population growth has increased over-crowding.
The Sagome Learning Center has more teaching time and better student/teacher ratios. It gives fee-paying and scholarship students a chance at a brighter future, in Ethiopia’s competitive high schools and universities.
Learning Center students are able to pass national exams that let them go on to college and university. It has an almost 100 percent pass rate. When the Center was founded, the failure rate for public school students writing national exams was more than 20 percent; it has not greatly improved.
Full or half-scholarships provided by the Sagome Scholarship fund allow up to 100 students to attend. The school community itself provides scholarships for more students. Many poor families send their sons and not daughters to public schools, but the scholarship program helps to balance the Sagome school community by encouraging girls’ education.
Scholarships cost $120 for a full year, and $60 covers a scholarship for one semester or half a year. Your donations go to work immediately, helping needy students gain a high-quality education. Those children and their families have a brighter future and Ethiopia gains more, better-educated workers and leaders.
Three brothers and their wives — Salfiso Kitabo and Menbere Gossaye; Mesele Kitabo and Selam Tadesse; and Gobana Kitabo (currently residing in the U.S.A.) and Roman Tamrat – founded the school. Mesele Kitabo and Salfiso Kitabo currently oversee the school’s operation but the school has its own management group drawn from the employed staff. The school’s founding director is a well-known English teacher, on staff and employed by the school. The current director and section leaders handle administration and also teach.
The three families donated the land and material needed for the start-up. Mesele Kitabo, a development consultant based in Waliso, is currently the school’s volunteer General Manager. Donor funds are managed on a volunteer basis by Salfiso Kitabo, whose full-time job in Addis Ababa is country director with a major NGO. Thanks to these local volunteers, all donor funds go to support the school, with no administrative or funding costs in Ethiopia.
Project co-leader Mike Milne first visited the school in 2007, while researching a magazine article on fair trade coffee. At that time, the school was facing financial shortfalls and unable to continue funding scholarships for students. He and Jocelyn Milne later began raising money for the scholarship project among family and friends. Now working through DevXchange, the project has attracted more donors and has raised awareness of the project and education in Ethiopia.
A visit to the school in February, 2018, gave Mike and Jocelyn a chance to meet with administrators, teachers and students and to visit a new library building funded through donors to the DevXchange project.
Students are successful
In the last decade, 292 students have passed the elementary school exam to let them go on to Grade 9. Sagome’s Grade 8 students all consistently pass those national exams, with average marks in the 80s and 90s. Pass rates at local government schools are as low as 45 percent.
The first 17 students to graduate from the Sagome Learning Center in 2009— 12 young men and five young women — have completed high school and are now studying at Ethiopian universities. Five are studying medicine and will graduate in two years. Six are about to graduate as engineers.
There were 736 students registered at the Sagome Learning Center for 2018-19, with 100 receiving full or half scholarships from the Sagome Scholarship program.
Registration for 2019-20 is expected to be about the same. Thanks to a girls’ upgrading program funded in 2011, there is an equitable balance of male and female students.
Ethiopia’s dominant religion is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but more than half the population in Wolkite is Muslim. The Sagome Learning Center has no religious affiliation and includes Muslim and Christian students. This approach is one significant way children are being prepared to help take part in an open and democratic society and nation.
The Sagome Learning Center scholarship program helps provide education and hope for the future to children of poor parents, plus orphans, including those whose parents have died from HIV or are living with the disease. Special capital projects in the past have also included construction of a new girls’ latrine and a school drinking water system.
Sagome Library Project
A $15,000 capital funding campaign in 2016 helped the school build a new 2,000-square-foot library. To see the new library, click on the link below.
Sagome Water Project
A $7,200 capital funding campaign will help the school to build a water-station, to expand its hand-washing and drinking facilities, for the growing student population. For more information click on the link below.