Pioneering women of Ethiopia

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Anette Johnson attended high school with my mother in Ethiopia. She  wrote  me with some incredible pictures (of my mother) like the one above circa 1963. Anette organised a reunion in 2014. She said besides the joy of reunion

“I also suddenly became aware of a surge of compassion and love for the women who struggled with me in that dorm in Kuyera to become Ethiopian women pioneers. We discussed literacy this weekend because Gemetchu is doing a personal video project to discuss the early literacy work of Gebre and Hamdesa in the local neighborhoods surrounding Kuyera. Here are a few statistics that Gebre and Hamdessa agreed are fairly accurate. In 1950 the literacy rate among the city people was probably around 15% and in the countryside it was as low as 5%. The first nursing students graduated in the 1950’s in Addis. The first Addis Abeba University college graduates were in the early sixties. The first women to graduate from Kuyera High School graduated in 1965. They were Yemarshet Sissay and Almaz Terefe. Not only were they the first women to graduate from high school within the SDA school system they graduated from a school that was not taught in their native language, but in English. This accomplishment can only be compared to the first women in the nineteenth century in the western world to be allowed to attend high school and college. Today Gebre estimates the literacy rate in rural Ethiopia to be above 80%. Both of Gebre’s daughters are M.D.s. His wife Ethiopia had a Master’s degree in social work that she earned In Michigan in the 1970’s. As we looked at Kuyera High School annuals from the eighties the percentage of women in the classes were already at 50%. So once more I want to post the pictures of the girls from Kuyera that were my friends. Almaz, Terefe, Yemarshet Sissay and I am sorry I do not have the third girls name.”

Recently and thankfully Annette wrote me again

“The college was started at Kuyera after I left but the church sponsored talented people to get professional educations overseas  for many more years. It is one of the things I respect about the SDA church. Early on the schools they founded were always accredited to the standards of the country they were in. They are the second largest church run international private school system after the Catholic school system. What that has meant for so many of us is that we have educations that allow us to transition into the “world” when we leave the church. This is also  why Obama’s father and grandfather went to SDA schools in Kenya”

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