Bill and Betty Graff (Addis Ababa, Sodo 63–65), founders of ETLearns, have long been interested in literacy efforts in Ethiopia, transitioning from print books to e-resources as demonstrated in Bill’s article in The Herald January 2015. Much has evolved since that time with ETLearns. Between 2015-17, ETLearns, using technology developed by WorldPossible, established eleven school partnerships in Wolaita Sodo.
World Possible is a non-profit organizations that brings open educational resources to users who do not have easily available access to the internet and to resources. RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning) is a stand-alone, wireless server that contains a wealth of information. Of particular relevance to ETLearns was the inclusion of the Ethiopian curriculum, including plasma videos, provided by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, which students use to study for the 8th, 10th, and 12th grade national exams. Other content includes open access resources such as Boundless Textbooks, Great Books of the World, Hesperian Health Guides, Kahn Academy, and Wikipedia. Because content resides on the server, there is no dependence on the internet, which in Ethiopia is not readily available nor always reliable.
ETLearns collaborated with the Wolaita Development Association. The schools provided classrooms for the learning lab and library as well as instruction and monitoring of the use. In addition to the server, ETLearns provided Chromebooks, headphones, projectors, and student monitors.
Since the installation in Wolaita, ETLearns partnered with Janet Lee (Emdeber, 1974-76) in the establishment of Chromebook lab in Axum, with the Axumite Heritage Foundation Library, the first community library installation of its kind. They have reported heavy use of the lab, with the Ethiopian curriculum being a much sought-after resource.
Bill reports that ETLearns has partnered with an Australian NGO for a school near Addis Ababa. ETLearns has also partnered with Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanzania in the establishment of five labs.
What does the future hold? ETLearns is current working with an Ethiopian expatriate in the US. It has committed a RACHEL server and 30 Chromebooks for a new school he is building this year. There are also two schools in Tigray, one of which does not have access to electricity, a new challenge.
Also on the horizon, is The Tenacity Project, shepherded by the late Michael McCaskey (Fiche), with the assistance of a team of Ethiopia RPCVs. The focus of this project will be a school in Fiche as well as a partnership with Project Mercy, in Yetabon, outside of Butajira.