Right To Play in Ethiopia

Right To Play has worked in Ethiopia since 2005 to improve learning outcomes and help children and youth develop critical life skills. We have significant experience in development and humanitarian settings in Ethiopia, and have worked in refugee-hosting regions and vulnerable communities across the country.

Based on our success in using sport and play to promote social cohesion amongst refugee and host communities, UNICEF invited Right To Play to provide technical support under the Building Self-Reliance Program for how to integrate structured sport and play into the responses of lead implementing partners in all five refugee-hosting regions of the country.

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The challenges faced by children in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa, and has demonstrated profound resilience in the face of natural disasters and regional conflict. As a result of investments in education and pro-poor social protection programs, Ethiopia has made significant gains in child survival and in enrollment rates at primary and pre-primary levels. However, challenges remain. Faced with poor-quality infrastructure, high pupil to teacher ratios, and limited learning materials, less than six out of ten children complete primary education.

Ethiopia is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa, sheltering over 760,000 registered refugees. Most refugees are accommodated in 26 refugee camps which depend largely on humanitarian assistance, and in which services and opportunities are limited.

  • 66% of grade 2 and 3 students lack functional reading skills.
  • In refugee camps, 44% of school-age children are out of school.
  • More than 24% of children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour.
  • 80% of primary schools have no or unimproved water facilities. 61% have no or unimproved sanitation facilities.
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Supporting successful learning for every child

Right To Play works with schools, communities, and education officials to improve the quality of education for all children, including children from the most vulnerable households. We enhance teaching practice through in-service training that promotes active, child-centered learning. We also provide teachers with teaching materials and sports kits that enable them to apply their new skills. And we train principals, supervisors, and education officials on play-based learning and the principles of coaching and mentoring so they can support the teachers they work with.

Our work also involves collaborating with local partners to address key barriers that children from vulnerable households face, with particular attention paid to barriers faced by girls and children with disabilities. We support parents, community members and civil society partners to actively promote the value of education, provide supplemental reading activities, and encourage out-of-school girls and children with disabilities to enroll and stay in school. Since menstruation is often a barrier to girls’ education, we work to raise awareness amongst children and community members of the importance of improved menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices, and we provide MHM supplies to girls from vulnerable households.

“In a class of 50 children in grade one, there are 12 children who came through ‘O’ class and the impacts are highly observable. The children who spent one year at the ‘O’ class are the lead in any of the academic or play activities done in the classroom. They are free to speak, willing to participate in answering questions and able to read and write with little guidance.”Primary school teacher in Wuchale, Oromia

Building skills for leadership and life

Right To Play uses indoor and outdoor structured play activities to develop children’s skills in communication, leadership, teamwork, and cooperation, as well as life-saving behaviours like handwashing. Children’s clubs organize community events to raise awareness of children’s rights and the importance of education.

Right To Play has used similar approaches to foster the social-emotional competence of refugee children and youth in the Somali and Benishangul-Gumuz regions. By providing structured play opportunities like sports tournaments, we have successfully promoted social cohesion between and amongst refugee and host community youth.

We also form community reading centres that give youth an opportunity to exercise their leadership skills. And we train and support youth volunteers to lead play and sport activities that help younger children develop life, literacy, and numeracy skills.

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Promoting quality early childhood education

Right To Play is supporting the government’s ambitious plan to scale access to quality pre-primary education across the country. We are helping to establish new O-classes, the preparatory class that prepares rural children for entry into primary school. In addition to supporting the construction and physical improvement of classrooms, we provides age-appropriate educational materials and equipment, and train O-class teachers on child development, active play-based pedagogy, and positive learning environments. We also carry out the social mobilization that has been critical to build community acceptance of and support for O-classes.

Get updates on Right To Play’s work in Ethiopia and around the world

Right To Play works in close partnership with Ethiopia’s government at national, regional, and district levels. At the policy level, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education is guiding co-operation to integrate play-based learning into the national curriculum. This policy work is building on experience with the Fiche and Kotebe Colleges of Teacher Education to integrate play-based learning into pre-service training for general and early childhood education teachers.

Our programs in Ethiopia are also supported by Norad, the Fondazione San Zeno, UNICEF, and supporters like you.