Obituaries

250 Miles in 11 Days to Build Schools in Oromia

Photo by Sara Tincher @ OWUClaire Everhart, a recent graduate of Ohio’s Wesleyan University, is going to Ethiopia to partake in a race intended to build schools in Oromia region.


According to On The Ground, an organization “that works directly with communities around the globe helping them gain sustainable access to fresh water, education, and quality healthcare”, only a “little more than half the [Oromia] region’s children complete primary school” with an overall “literacy rate of 36 percent.”

Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous and largest region, is home to an estimated 40 million Oromo people. Oromo people have historically been marginalized in Ethiopia. Even today, the differential access to education and other opportunities among Oromo and other ethnic groups like the ruling minority Tigreans remains staggeringly high.

The inequity in access to opportunities is even more pronounced when it comes to government jobs with less than 3% Oromos represented in areas such as the Foreign Ministry. All high ranking military positions are also filled by Tigreans testament to the regime’s insecurity and mistrust for the country’s 80 plus ethnic groups.

Ethiopia has slowly inched towards a defacto one party system, finally commemorating the height its authoritarianism with the most recent 99.6% election “victory”. Ethiopia’s defiant Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a former rebel turned tyrant, has been in power since 1991.

Ethiopian authorities have recently released the widely revered opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa on a second pardon. While her release is being celebrated around the world, two leading rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are calling on Ethiopian regime to release all political prisoners. Ethiopia is largely seen as a prison house of nations especially for Oromo people. An estimated 20,000 Oromos are believed to be languishing in Ethiopia’s notorious prisons.

I would like to wish Claire all the best on her Ethiopian trip and the race. In the past, Ethiopian authorities have deported and detained American students volunteering in the Oromo region. It is my sincere hope that Claire would be welcomed and accorded a warm hospitality.

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