Muntaha Sultan sits at her desk with a pen and an exercise book.

Bale Zone Initiative

In 2013 we embarked on an exciting new project to enroll 28,599 children in two districts of Ethiopia. Three years later, we finished and far exceeded our goal: 37,180 children are now in school thanks to our donors, staff and partner communities in Ethiopia.

Dry and arid, with acacia trees lining red earth and surrounding statuesque termite towers, Meda Welabu is a pastoralist district known for its extreme heat and wild summer rains. Its education indicators were among the weakest in all of Ethiopia with primary school enrollment at just 46%, drop out rates at 22%, and approximately two thirds the number of girls attending school as compared to boys.

The nearby Dello Mena District is blessed with emerald green hills and rainbows on many days, but it’s education indicators were just as striking: only half of school age children were enrolled, drop-out rates were at 18% and only three girls for every four boys attended school.

In late 2013, we began a three-year project to transform the education system in these two districts: The Bale Zone Out of School Children Initiative. Working with 103 schools, we set ourselves an ambitious target to enroll 28,599 out-of-school children, decrease the drop out rate from 20% to 2% and increase the gender parity among students.

Our impact after three years


  • Enrolled 37,180 out-of-school children (130% of the project target).
  • Reduced the drop out rate from 20% to 3.3%
  • Increased gender equality, with 0.93 girls per boy, up from 0.67
  • Reduced the rate of late entries to primary school from 87% to 42%
  • Built 11 new schools, with a total of 55 classrooms.
  • Trained 1,250 educators on modern teaching methodologies
  • Trained 717 Parent-Teacher Association Members and 718 community leaders on community mobilization strategies ,the value of education, strategies for fighting harmful traditional practices, and strategies to enroll and retain out-of-school children with the involvement of parents.

How we did it

Through leadership development programs that we put on for Parent Teacher Associations, religious and political leaders, and women’s associations; girls, orphans and other vulnerable children who are often at risk of not going to school, now have an equal opportunity to others.

By constructing classrooms to serve Grades 5-8, children who would otherwise drop out of school after the 4th grade because the distance to reach Grade 5 is just too far, now have the chance to continue learning in a brand new school near to their home.

Our early childhood education strategy encouraged parents to send their aspiring scholars to school at a young age, inspiring education as a household value and resulting in children starting primary school at the appropriate age.

Teacher professional development programs and improvements in the quality of school learning environments will bring achievement and attitude changes across the board, and will help reduce drop outs.

This project was only possible with the support of our many donors and Educate a Child, who matched every dollar donated.


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The Bale Zone is in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region.

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