This article has been published in Enabling Education 3
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Title: Overcoming Adversity in the Slums of Addis Abeba
Author: Kifle, T
Publisher: EENET
Date: 1999

Overcoming Adversity in the Slums of Addis Abeba

“All the changes I have seen amongst children, the youth and the old…and to see children who were once on the streets with drug habits now carrying books and going to school. How satisfying to be part of that!”

Tezera Kifle is a 24 year old co-ordinator of an educational and recreation programme for children and youth in the slums of Addis Abeba. The Integrated Holistic Approach-Urban Development Project (IHA-UDP) is based in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. The project works in four of the eight poorest ‘kebeles’ (sub-districts) in the city.

At the time when IHA-UDP started work in these four districts, Tezera described himself as being ‘a difficult youth who drank, smoked, chewed chat and took drugs and abused all kinds of substances.’ Tezera was an orphan who lived with his two brothers. He says that he hardly saw them because he would go out of his house in the morning and return very late at night: ‘I was no use to myself or to others.’ Tezera was identified by his community as one of the young people who could benefit from the project’s youth rehabilitation/preventation programme.

Now Tezera believes that he has changed dramatically as a result of being involved in this project. He says that his and many young people’s attitudes have changed. The persistance of the approach which aims to ‘teach, conscientise and change attitudes’ has made this change possible.

Tezera’s work now involves going through the high streets, seeking out street children from his area to reconcile and reunite them with their families. A large percentage of street children in Addis come from this part of the city. The project aims to create the right family and community environment so that the children can go back to their homes.

Tezera also works as a music teacher voluntarily in the kindergarten which was built by the project. Ensuring that the poorest children go to school is one of the projects preventative strategies. One of the reasons why a child ends up on the street is that his/her family are too poor to afford the cost of education which they may consider to be a luxury. Another aspect of the project’s preventative work is through creating recreational facilities for young people. A sport and recreation centre was built as a response to one of the community’s needs.

Tezera is also a member of the neighbourhood group, which is a community-based organisation which ensures grass-roots representation at all levels of the project’s programme planning and implementation. Although he works very hard, Tezera feels that it does not compare with the reward of seeing positive changes in people’s lives. As a youth worker, he is convinced that prison has not helped to change young people’s attitudes. Counselling, education and training in specific skills over a long period, however, has made a big impact.

One day Tezera would like to put to use one of his many talents and write a book about the changes that have taken place in his community. In the future he hopes to work in poverty alleviation and to be the head of a humanitarian organisation.

Tezera Kifle can be contacted on: CBISDO . P.O.Box 6889 . Addis Abeba . Ethiopia.
Tel: +251 1 15 63 75