Seffo is home to imagine1day’s first school. Just ten months after imagine1day was registered in Ethiopia in 2008, we opened our very first Grade 1-4 classrooms in this small village, in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia.

A crowded group of Ethiopian school children in an open air classroom

Children would cram into Seffo’s “dass” open-air school

Before students from Seffo who wanted to study past Grade 2 had to walk up to 8 km to attend school hunched on stones. Aster, a mother of two, was so dedicated to helping her daughters get to class safely that she walked two hours each way with them to ensure that they weren’t swept away at the river crossing or harassed by strangers.

Since 2008, students in Seffo have brand new Grade 1-4 classrooms just minutes from their homes.

For students like Liyah, in Grade 3, it’s a dream come true. “Last year in the dass (outdoor)school, my family would make me stay home to avoid the dust and rain and wind. But since we’ve had this building, they really encourage me to go to school and to study hard. Also, I used to be in third place, but now I’m in fifth because the other students have become much stronger and some very strong students have joined our school from other places. I’m studying very hard, but they won’t let me into the top three club,” says the ambitious 8-year-old.

A man chiseling a brick by hand

Each brick was hand chiseled by locals

Students aren’t just coming for the new classrooms either. The new desks and learning materials are attracting students and keeping them alert and motivated throughout the day.

Thanks to imagine1day training, Werefech Gebreyesus, a dedicated community member, has taken it upon herself to ensure that not only girls, but all children in her village are attending school.

Last week she visited 12 households that she suspected had children that were kept out of school. We were happy to learn that her assumption was wrong in about nine of those homes, and that Mrs. Gebreyesus was able to convince two families to register their children for the next school year.

A group of Ethiopian students smiling and clapping in an indoor classroom
Students now learn in the comfort of their new school

In one home, two children who were previously learning were pulled from Grade 1 and 2 to care for livestock. In another, the family could not afford a notebook and pen for their daughter, but wanted her to learn. In the last household, the family had chosen to send their two children to learn in the religious education system, as its lenient attendance requirements and evening schedule allowed for their children’s help on the farm during the day.

Mrs. Gebreyesus has two older children: a 12-year old daughter in Grade 6 and a 17-year-old son in Grade 7. When asked why her son began school so late, she says, “Previously, I thought that having him keep cattle was more important to our survival than getting an education. Then I came to realize that education is in fact the way to eradicate poverty.”