Zoom

An ordinary day in the life of Qello

Qello, aged 13, collects firewood from the forest, as dawn breaks over the village of Dodota Denbel. The second of four children in a family of farmers, she is responsible for most of the domestic chores, especially since her older sister, 19, got married and had a baby.

Photos: Ignacio Marín

Text: Katerina Markelova

If Qello, the heroine of this photo feature (shot in November 2017) goes to school today, it is because she is lucky. Just 30.4% of Ethiopian girls of secondary school age are able to go to school (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2015).

Qello, who is 13 years old, has already taken the first step towards realizing her fundamental right to education – she has not abandoned primary school, like 61% of her young compatriots (UIS, 2014). But will she be able to enter upper secondary school? Only 17% of girls (gross enrolment rate*) passed this level in 2015.

In Ethiopia, in spite of  a relatively high rate of enrolment of girls in primary school ‒ 82% in 2015 ‒ only one girl in two (47% in 2007) between the ages of 15 and 24 years can read, write and understand a short and simple text about their daily lives. This is the logical consequence of an acute shortage of teachers – there is one teacher for 55 pupils at primary level in 2011.

Will Qello’s little brother face as many obstacles during his schooling? He will have a slightly better chance of going to primary school (the enrolment rate for boys was 88.5% in 2015), and secondary school (31.4% in 2015). He will also probably spend one more year at school – the school life expectancy* for boys was 8.9 years in 2012, compared to 7.9 years  for girls.

Even though boys and girls have almost equal access to compulsory schooling (from 7 to 14 years), the situation in Ethiopia is not very encouraging. About 2.2 million children and 4.6 million adolescents (2015) have had no schooling in this sub-Saharan African country with a population of 102 million.

Today, 59 million children, or 9% of the primary school-aged population worldwide, do not go to school. Just over half of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with the highest rates of exclusion from education. Some 17 million of them are girls – 9 million girls between 6 to 11 will never go to school, as against 6 million boys (IUS).

Gender equality is Target 1 of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure equal and quality education for all, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities by 2030. UNESCO, as the United Nations specialized agency for education, was entrusted to lead the Education 2030 Framework for Action, adopted in November 2015.  The main responsibility for implementing this agenda lies with governments, with UNESCO and its partners providing support through advice on coordinated policy formulation, technical assistance, capacity-building and monitoring of progress at the global, regional and national levels.

__________________________

*Gross enrolment rate: the number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education.

*School life expectancy: the number of years a child is likely to spend in the school and university education system.


Qello, aged 13, collects firewood from the forest, as dawn breaks over the village of Dodota Denbel. The second of four children in a family of farmers, she is responsible for most of the domestic chores, especially since her older sister, 19, got married and had a baby. Once she is back at home with the wood, Qello prepares coffee.


Qello spends a few minutes on herself, taking a morning wash.


Before she can get to school, Qello has already made breakfast and cleaned the house. She is sometimes late, or has to skip a class because household chores are a priority.


Five girls share one desk in Qello’s class at the village public school.


 
“Two thirds of Qello’s girlfriends will be forcibly married at an early age. The vast majority of them will drop out from school soon after their wedding day,”
explains Ana Sendagorta, Director of the Pablo Horstmann Foundation.
 

 
Back from school, Qello prepares a meal for the family.  Traditionally, domestic duties are seen as essential “training” for girls, preparing them for their future lives as wives and mothers.


Qello waits for her father to finish his meal before she cleans the dishes.


 
Once the dishes are done, Qello fetches water from the community well. Only one well serves the entire village, so she often waits for hours in a queue for her turn.

 


 

The journey back home takes even longer, since the donkey cart is loaded with water. The long distances expose many girls to physical or sexual violence, but they have

no choice. Their families depend on the water.  

 


 

Back home, it is time to do the laundry.

 

 
By the time all the chores are done, it is the end of the day. Qello finally finds some time do her homework, by the light of a small lamp.
 

Night shrouds Qello’s house in darkness, though stars light the sky. Tomorrow is another day.