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Project Provides Ethiopian Child Workers Schooling

UNICEF project allows child workers in drought-hit Ethiopia to attend school

30 July 2008 - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is backing a new project in drought-hit southern Ethiopia that will ensure child labourers in the impoverished region can attend school.

About 300 children who work in the Lake Awassa fish market will be able to continue their studies at an informal school under the project, which is being implemented with the help of the South Ethiopia People's Development Association and other local partners.

Drought conditions across the Horn of Africa have become so severe that many families are sending their children away from home to find work, such as families in villages near Lake Awassa.

The informal school will have social workers on site to provide students with counselling, and the pupils will be given the clothes and school supplies they need to continue their studies.

"Every child has the right to an education," UNICEF project officer Felekech Basazinew said in a press release issued on Monday. "These children have been forced to leave home because of the difficult circumstances their families are in. We are trying to make sure their rights are not denied."

Eight-year-old Shakur was sent away to work by his mother when she could no longer afford to feed him. He now rises at dawn to try to find work on the shores of Lake Awassa.

"I work from 8 a.m. until noon," he said. "I will buy a piece of bread for breakfast for 50 cents. For lunch I will buy a samosa for 60 cents, and then another piece of dry bread for my dinner"

Shakur said he hopes to save enough money to buy a bicycle that he can then rent to other boys for 25 cents per ride. That way he can pay for schooling and try to become a doctor.

UNICEF has already appealed for $49 million to fund its emergency operations for children and women in Ethiopia, particularly the south and southeast, where the drought is most severe.

About 75,000 Ethiopian children are estimated to be severely malnourished as a result of the drought, and another 4.6 million people need immediate humanitarian assistance.


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