A difference made in preserving and protecting the past
Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, is rich in different ways. Each city in the country hosts a mixture of history that is known and unknown by its own people and has nine unique sites registered by the UNESCO. Poland, in Eastern Europe, has 10 sites registered by the UNESCO. Ethiopia and Poland share a similarity (almost) of having nine and 10 world heritage sites registered by the UNESCO respectively but have a titanic difference in knowing and handling their own history and culture. Addis Ababa and Krakow Addis Abeba, the capital of Ethiopia, is home to an old Ethnological Museum, obelisks such as Minelik II and Abune Petros, old historical churches like St. George in Piassa, open areas like the Meskel Square, Mexico square and the recent one, Ethio-china square. Ancient hospitals, hotels and theaters also exist in Addis Ababa. Krakow in Poland, on the other hand, is home to a variety of breathtaking venues such as the Wawel Cathedral, the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Wawel Royal Castle and an Ethnographic museum to mention few. The visible difference between these two cities comes to life when one visits each city. In Addis Ababa most of these historical places are not known and are ill preserved and the way by which they are protected and promoted is disappointing at best. Take for example the old city of Arada, which is where Minilik the II and Abuna Petros monuments stand. A quick glance on both reveals there is hardly anything that signifies their history. Not to mention the site of a worrying dirt surrounding the in and out of the area. It is almost impossible to pass by there without holding one’s nose. The monument of Abuna Petros, who died a martyr’s death during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the 1930s, says nothing about his history, not to mention the lack of exact proof as to where the Italians buried him after he was killed, which should have otherwise been available on the spot for regular tourists and Ethiopians who are interested to know his history. Unless it’s for historians who labour over scant archives of the history, nothing is available in the convenience of a regular visitor to the place. In a country that houses a ministry of culture and tourism, negligence in handling due history is inexcusable. In Krakow, however, there is nothing that remotely looks like Addis Ababa. Not only are tourist attraction places well protected and preserved, there is an information overflow on each places that sometimes one feels simply overburdened by it.
History depending on who rules the country When the Marxist- Derg came to power in 1974, its cadres destroyed monuments, changed names of schools, and had burned archives that bear resembles of the Monarchy they overthrew. Although to a lesser extent, the ruling EPRDF did the same notably by reducing to rubles of a giant monument dedicated to Lenin. Recently a journalist for the national television was seen interviewing street vendors to learn how they have saved copies of some of the books that were destroyed in the process.
The church of the Virgin Mary, Krakow
In contrary in Poland the history of its past, no matter how dark, is well preserved and protected. Teaching the new generation a lesson from the ups and downs of the country’s past is taken very seriously. Even gruesome reminders of a dark history like the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp is kept and well taken care of, attracting thousands of tourists every year. During a visit there, I threw a casual question at our guide on whether keeping some of these history won’t serve bring shame on today’s generation. She said their aim was to show the past and prevent similar historical slip-ups in the future. True to her words the Salt Mine, a mining place with unflattering tales in the past, is now home to chapels, restaurants, museums, shopping centers and cinema houses and attracts more than 700,000 visitors from different parts of the world every year. Like Ethiopia Poland has seen its share of political turmoil and had been ruled by tough communist regimes in the past, but unlike most historical places in Ethiopia, a difference made in preserving and protecting Poland’s history is deeply felt in every place one goes to.
November 23, 2012 addisstandard
Ethiopians are largely known as conservatives, but recent trends in urban areas reveal they are everything but that
By Rose Mestika
Ethiopia, like many other countries in the world, is a land of diverse tradition, multiple languages and ethnic composition. It also prides itself of being the only country in the continent that has its own alphabets, and a unique calendar, and, of course, the only country that has “never been colonized.”
In most cases, its people are proud of the many unique things they think are found only in their country. Unlike other African countries, Ethiopian names share no resemblance with names from any country in the continent; and Ethiopian costumes have less (if not nothing) in common with colorful drapes worn in many parts of the continent. No one knows this better than Ethiopians themselves who proudly preserved this uniqueness for centuries.
But as of recent the connection between Ethiopians, particularly in urban areas, and the pride they take in their tradition seem to have taken a back seat, or in some extreme cases, has come to an awkward end. Nowhere is this trend more visible than in the names and the medium of communications many Ethiopian parents decide to give and talk to their children.
Increasing numbers of private schools where the majority of middle class families take their kids know this better than other businesses. They set the standards for their attractiveness by adopting foreign school names: School of Tomorrow, School of Excellence, New Grand School, New Life Academy, School of Nations, School of Indiana and School of America are to mention few. They have also adopted English first curricula and the school calendars staunchly observe western holidays. TV and radio advertisements by these schools attempt to lure parents by openly declaring “English only” curricula; billboards show pictures of mostly white foreigners teaching children, and mostly white foreign children studying in their schools.
That they choose English as a medium of communication is okay, but there is more to their attempts to attract future parents using pictures of white foreigners than meet the eye.
“Schools, hospitals and many other service providers such as cafés, boutiques and restaurants use this approach because they know they can sell their products”, said a social psychology expert, “it’s not their fault, it’s the people’s increasing love affair with western culture that dictates the markets.”
Among the middle, upper middle and upper class Ethiopians living in urban areas English, and in some cases French languages, have become household medium of communication between family members. Names like Alex, Dave, John, Rakeb, Emy, Evan, and Tinos are now names in the streets have become increasingly popular. There are evidences that children who have typical Ethiopian names like Konjit, Abeba, Sisay, Wondwoson, and children who prefer to speak with their peers in Amharic are increasingly being subjected to school bullying.
This magazine documented cases of foreign names and names taken from the holy bible in three classes of a kindergarten. Out of 11 students in the first class four have names taken from the holy bible and are unfamiliar with Ethiopian names; in the second class room 6 of the 11 pupils have foreign and names taken from the holy bible and in the last classroom seven of the 12 students have both foreign names and names taken from the holy bible.
Many kindergarten teachers are prohibited by their school administration from speaking to the kids they care for in Amharic, the national language. A letter written by a management of one kindergarten to the families reads, “I would like to inform you that the school has conducted after school program. The program is held Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3:15-4:35 for KG-Grade 4 students.” There was no Amharic translation attached with it.
In public places, it has become increasingly evident that some parents openly discourage their kids from speaking in Amharic or any other native language they might speak. As a result a good number of kids from a well being families speak little to nothing Amharic and have (most likely) no connection with one or more indigenous traditions.
Out of control
A few years ago, the Ministry of Education has sent out a special directive to all private schools and kindergartens throughout the country prohibiting them from using English and other foreign languages as the sole medium of communication. But according to a principal of a kindergarten in Addis Ababa, families were more opposed to the directives than were private school administrations.
Dr. Taye Negussie, a sociologist at Addis Ababa University and this magazine’s society and economy columnist, has written on this subject in August 2012 edition of this magazine. According to him, such trends are the effects of a “third contemporary period of globalization distinguished primarily by subtle Western domination effected through the ‘soft power’ of the entertainment industry, the global media and information technology.”
But an Indian businessman residing in Addis Ababa told this magazine it was more a matter of a presumed social class than a “subtle Western domination effected through the ‘soft power.’” Many Ethiopians believe speaking English is a matter of distinguishing their class status, according to him. Both explanations are hard to rebuff, but a well organized in depth research is long overdue.
For the parents of the children who are being subjected for school bullying because of their names and preferred medium of communication, there should be nothing more upsetting.
(Published on Addis Stanard Magazine)
In 2004-5, residents of Addis Ababa city woke up to a pleasing news when they were asked to register in their respective Kebeles for a new housing scheme that since then has come to be popularly known as condominium housing projects. For a city, which, by some conservative estimates, has 80% of its residents living under housing conditions that are not considered decent, the news that the government plans to build thousands of condominium houses for low income families was indeed a big one. Some people had their doubts about and voiced their concerns on whether such initiatives were not meant to win voters’ favour for an upcoming national election scheduled to take place in less than one year after the announcement of the program. Others dubbed it too ambitions.
Be that as it may, the government had stuck to its plan and had so far spent more than 15.4 billion birr in building 207, 000 housing units nationwide of which 140, 000 are located in Addis Ababa and built at a cost of 7.8 billion birr.
The government has plans to build additional 35,000 condominium houses in the next fiscal year, and a further 170,000 within the coming three years. And a few weeks ago, the government has announced another massive housing construction project called 40/60, in which housing beneficiaries will be asked to deposit 40% the value of the house in advance with the remaining 60% expected to be covered by the government as a long term loan to be paid by the beneficiaries at later stage.
No slum, yet
Urban planners dismiss the prospect of a slum in the city of Addis Ababa, and they are right. Slums in major cities such as the Nairobi’s Kibera, which is the second largest urban slum in Africa next to Nigeria, and is, according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, home to more than 170, 000 destitute Kenyans, and the Favelas in Brazil are notoriously known for failing to avert a rapid expansion of deteriorating social conditions. Today both places are known for their irrepressible crime rates and other social disasters.
Before the current condominium sites came to picture the city of Addis Ababa had thousands of shanty houses humorously referred by its residents as ‘chocolate rooftops’ because of the old brown rooftops they were covered with. There were shanty houses in areas such as Kirkos, Lideta, Arat Kilo and Kazanchis, which have slowly started to give way to new high rising buildings as residents were evicted (often controversially) and were given housing units inside the newly built condominium sites located in various parts of the town. Fortunately, this was done way before any potential for slum condition came to exist.
Not for so long, may be
Addis Ababa may be lucky to avoid having slum areas, but a few developments inside the newly built condominium sites reveal disturbing prospects of a future no less than slum conditions that are potentially threatening the social fabric and stability of the residents.
The biggest of all problems facing almost all of the existing condominium sites is a chronic lack of infrastructure. No one seemed to have thought of installing functioning sewerage systems; water pipes are rusting as they usually go on idle for weeks; green areas are considered luxuries and although a few sites have incorporated them in their plans from the start, most of them have ended up serving as parking lots – none of the sites this magazine has visited in the last month have trees planted around them; and most of the sites particularly in the outskirts of the town lack roads connecting them to main stations – at least for the time being.
So far, the issue of lack, or in some cases absence, of a functioning infrastructure has been widely discussed as a national agenda. In the past the government has admitted, more than once, that a few essential things have gone terribly wrong while planning for the massive construction of the houses. It claims it has taken valuable lessons from the past and that the ongoing projects and the future ones will be a lot more different. We can only hope for that.
Unfortunately, however, the already existing problem of infrastructure in some sites such as Jemo, the biggest condominium site hosting 10, 000 houses, is not an end in itself; it became a means for new and neglected social problems that are spreading at a speed faster than either the authorities or the people living in the condominiums would like to admit.
As majority of the residents found themselves struggling to adapt to a new life style in a four story condominium complexes, abuse of the insufficient sewerage system have become widespread; a few open areas that were meant to be used as green areas or parking lots are shamelessly being used as garbage disposal lots; houses found in the first floors of each of the four story building are rented out as bars, nightclubs Chat (Qat) houses and kiosks. As time goes by the residents are waking up to unexpected nightmare – these places are serving as breeding grounds for criminals and security has become one of the most threatening factors. krobberies and petty thefts are now day-to-day activities in most sites that recently a state TV police program has publicly advised the residents of Jemo site to be “extra careful at all times.”
Chasing out decent income families
Although originally built for low income families, most of the housing units in many condominium sites are occupied by middle to upper middle income families with an average income of 5000 – 7000 birr a month. Still a considerable amount of houses are given to poor families who are evicted from inner city areas cleared for high-rising buildings.
The trend is now more and more residents with decent incomes are already moving out of these sites. Mushrooming Real Estate companies are offering lucrative deals designed for middle to upper middle income families and many are taking chances with them. With decent income families slowly moving out of these condominium sites, their successors are in to inherit housing units on their last legs.
According to the Nairobi based UN-Habitat, Africa’s population, standing at one billion by many estimates, is expected to double its numbers by 2050, which means there will be “three times” as many people living in big African cities.
Big population of urban dwellers is not a problem in itself, but UN-Habitat warned that African countries must plan better their big cities to avoid the potential of expanding urban slums. “Conditions in African cities are now the most unequal in the world. They are already inundated with slums and a tripling of urban populations could spell disaster,” a recent statement by the UN-Habitat reads. Within the coming 17 years, close to 60% of African population, which will have grown by additional 500 million by then, will be living in major cities, the report added. Although many countries in Africa have reversed a disastrous tide of slum growth, quite a number of them will have huge problems due to the sheer fact of a fast growing population and deteriorating infrastructure conditions. Addis Ababa has both.
Residents of a few condominium sites are trying to organize committees to deal with the issues including social behavioural problems by penalizing those who use green areas or parking lots as garbage disposal places. ‘Israel one’ site in Semein Mezegaga, in Northern Addis Ababa, and the Mekanisa site in Western Addis Ababa are two sites to reckon.
But they are few, and far apart.
Do we have really have the guts and the experience of volunteer activity, donation or other charity activity? I doubt it. Of course, we are giving cents and piece of Injera when beggars are at the door of our home, church, or in taxi stop. But we are not that much involved in organized charity and volunteer work. In addition to that we didn’t grown up participating and experience to do so.
Yesterday, Ginbot 8, 2003 /May 17, 2011/ I heard news in Sheger 102 FM. It’s about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church aid program. According the news it was started two months ago and they are giving foods and material for vulnerable families. The program is organized by Mahber kidusan.
Now a day’s life is so hard mainly for the poor and the middle class. Currently, the price of foods is skyrocketing. I wonder how a family with a having more than five family members and with the income of 500 to 1000 per month surviving. The price of food oil is around 52 Br in addition to the price there is scarcity.
It is great to start helping each other when our people needed help instead of waiting the outsiders. I think we should play our part when such kind of organized charity work is happening. “Everybody wants to do something to help, but nobody wants to be the first” said Pearl Bailey, U.S. singer and actor. The point is who will be the first? Will you be or are we waiting the first one? Till when? Fortunately, there are a few people who are helping and dedicating their life for charity and volunteer activity; however, the majority is still unmoved.
It is our, Ethiopian New Year Meskerem 1, 2003 /September 11/ How did you celebrate it? Is there any special thing happened in 2002? For me yes. I gave birth and now my son is 11 months old. This is the success of the year and my entire life.
When New Year celebration comes, I always asked myself whether I achieved my goals, plans or if I did something which can make me proud. One of my long-time plan or dream was to participate in charity and humanitarian work as some of my friends did. This year I start working on collecting exercise books, pencils, rubbers, and pen with my friends and families. Fortunately, those friends and families whom I asked for their kind contribution agreed and support my project.
Well , this article is not about me or my dream . If it is all about me, there is no pint on writing and posting it in the first place. But it is to get your kind attention and contribution to help the helpless children who don’t have enough educational material when they begin the new academic year. I am hoping to get your contributions, ideas and experience in this regard.
I guess it is the most suitable time to sit down and think how to make a fruitful and life changing donation. It is also the time to prepare a New Year Resolution to be involved in charity activity .
I had discussion with my colleagues reg the issue of handling or usage of restroom. The general point was flashing water, how to use it? And the overall sanitation of restrooms (Agar room as my friend Wub call it may be I will use it because I found it suitable…funny.) The issue raised by our office restroom problem. Because it can’t take the waste as we flash the water. So it takes minutes and you should wait till it gone. And one of our friends came and complain about it. We all agree. On the other hand one of our colleagues said I don’t flash water when I pee. My friend and I shouted on him.
“Is that your pee that we always see?”
“Oh God why you did that?” dozens of question bombarded him. He didn’t feel guilty. I pee 100ml pee and you asked me to flash litres of water? No way! I won’t do that.
His point was we don’t have to misuse water. If there was a pee when I am using the restroom, I will flash water other ways the next person has to do that. Flashing water after and before pee is not always necessary. Though he has a point on misusing of water, I don’t see irrelevance of flashing water. In our country there is a misconception towards restroom custom.
It’s known that most of the households doesn’t have proper restroom with the access of flashing water, constructed properly, have not proper sewerage, above all the sewerage pour-out through the road, I can raise lots of problems in this regard.
I am sure you observed when people pee on street, near somebody’s fence or other places. Where is the problem? Is it the shortage of restroom or negligence of people? Yes there is a problem of getting public restrooms but we should find options and not pee on street.
I will try to share you other people opinions next time. What is your thinking about the restroom handling of our society? You can send your thoughts anytime in any way.
Today morning, March 2, I was listening 2002 /2010/ election debate between the ruling party and opposition party. They were presenting policies and programmes on Sheger radio, 102.1 and something came in my mind. EPRDF’s program presenter has a good voice and he really can communicate with the listeners. And also when he reads, he doesn’t omit words or mispronounced it. However, the some of the opposition party’s presenter was poor communicator. The reason is that the listeners know that he is reading and their reading style is unattractive. Though, reading is not a problem, the presenter can stopped in the middle of their presentation or paused unnecessarily, mispronounced words and I can say that they didn’t send out the intended message and has a problem of getting attention of the listeners.
It seems that they didn’t give enough attention for media work or they have lack of knowledge that the voice and the outlook matters when we come to broadcast media.
Hope they will understand and correct their mistake and use their chance properly, but EPRDF knows how to propagate through the stronger voice like Saiko. Saiko is the person who presents EPRDF’s program, policies and other issues on TV and radio. And his voice is strong and captive.
Unlike print media, broadcast media requires qualities of presenters like stronger voice, smart outlook, enthusiastic, self-confidence and being good communicator.
The parties are using public media for debate but the opposition parties are expressing that the time allocation is unfair.
Gender: gender equality, gender mainstreaming, and other related issues are the main hot issues for decades in every country. I have got an interesting experience regarding gender and gender audit; it’s a new issue for me and also for some others. So that I would like to share it with you what makes it interesting experience. What I experience was the detail matters and challenges of gender equality. Gender doesn’t refer the physical attributes of men and women. It refers the social difference and relations between men and women and these differences and relations is differ from culture to culture.
Related with this, International Labour Office (ILO) was organized training for Participatory Gender Audit (PGA) facilitators before months. It was held for four days in Nazreth, Ethiopia. The training was for the staff of UN agencies, Ethiopian Workers Association, Ethiopian Employers Federation and Ministry of Labour. Fortunately, I was the new Public relation officer and the only female professional staff of the Ethiopian Employers Federation. At the time I was six months of pregnant. It was amazing for me when I pass the interview and get that job.
When the director of the office gave me the invitation of this training, it was my first day at the office. I was in high spirits to participate on the training because the issue of women is in my blood. PGA training was quite interesting and extended my knowledge regarding gender and gender audit.
The training was started by defining the Participatory gender audit (PGA), the history and principles of gender audit methodology. The overall aim of Gender Audit is to promote organizational learning on how to implement gender mainstreaming effectively in polices, programmes and structures and assess the extent to which policies have been institutionalized at the level of the organization, work unit and individual. To help the gender audit facilitator 12 questions produced to obtain information in each area. The areas including whether the organization includes gender mainstreaming in its strategy, policies and programmes, information and knowledge management, on products and public images, gender participation on and organizational culture, staffing and human resources and other areas. The questions are designed to raise awareness in each key area.
After the training the trainees have to make gender audit in seven UN agencies. So that we were grouped and assigned to make the gender audit in those UN agencies. And I was assigned to work on World Food Program.
The training and gender audit process helps me to realize our day to day activities such as usage of words which makes men superior and women inferior, how organizations puts women on advertisements, posters, leaflets and other promotional materials.
In addition to that I learnt not only men but also women have lack of confidence about their talents, ability as well as rights and also they don’t have enough information on gender issues. Moreover, they agree with the societies attitude towards women, like women has to be in lower position not in decision making, can’t do what men doing and other. They are also not open to share what they face during interview to get a job, after join the organization and also whether they are facing discrimination and sexual abuses or not because of their sex. Surprisingly, if a woman is sexually abused they take as her fault not the abuser and they will not communicate with anyone.
In my opinion, women has to be changed and make themselves strong, confident and worthy before expecting to change men’s attitude towards women. There is saying that emphasize educating women will change the society. That is true and if they believe in it gender equality will be real otherwise.