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Reflecting on a Journey: Lessons Learned in Ethiopia

When I set out on my journey to Ethiopia, my goal was to learn about DVV's 30-year history of promoting adult and non-formal education. However, what I discovered was much more than just a list of accomplishments. The experience became a personal journey of reflection and self-discovery.

When I set out on my journey to Ethiopia, my goal was to learn about DVV's 30-year history of promoting adult and non-formal education. However, what I discovered was much more than just a list of accomplishments. The experience became a personal journey of reflection and self-discovery.

As I set foot in Menelik II primary school in Arat Kilo, Addis Ababa, I was immediately struck by the warmth and hospitality extended by the hosts. It was here that I began to unravel the layers of DVV Ethiopia's Community Learning Center program, established in 2018 to address the educational needs of the local community. Witnessing the transformation of a simple building into a hub of learning and empowerment was awe-inspiring.

The array of services offered at the center, from literacy and numeracy training to vocational skills development, underscored DVV's commitment to equipping individuals with the tools for self-improvement and livelihood enhancement. I was particularly moved by the provision of daycare facilities, enabling women to pursue education and training without the burden of childcare responsibilities.

At the conference commemorating DVV's 30-year journey in Ethiopia, a profound insight emerged regarding the origins of adult education across Africa. It became evident that adult education, much like in other African nations, traces its roots back to a time when knowledge, skills, and values were transmitted through oral tradition from one generation to the next. However, it wasn't until the early 20th century that adult education began to take on a more structured form. This evolution led to the establishment of National Literacy Programs as integral components of Adult and Non-Formal Education, starting as early as 1936. This pivotal moment marked a significant shift towards formalizing adult education initiatives, laying the groundwork for systematic approaches to literacy and skills development among adults.

Reflecting on the context of my own country, Tanzania, following independence, we confronted formidable adversaries: poverty, disease, and ignorance. These challenges mirrored those faced by Ethiopia and many other African nations during that era. However, it was the concerted efforts towards literacy campaigns that proved transformative. The literacy rate in Ethiopia stood at a mere 7%. In contrast, Tanzania with even higher levels of literacy after independence 30%. However, the remarkable outcome of these campaigns cannot be overstated. Within a decade, Ethiopia's adult literacy rate surged to an impressive 74%, showcasing the immense impact of targeted educational interventions.

Despite differing starting points in literacy rates between Tanzania and Ethiopia, both countries experienced significant improvements due to the implementation of comprehensive literacy campaigns. This underscores the effectiveness of proactive measures in bolstering literacy rates and combating ignorance, thereby fostering socio-economic development and empowerment across communities.

Decades following the inception of the National Literacy Campaign within Ethiopia's Adult and Non-Formal Education (ANFE) framework, DVV International made its entry into the Ethiopian landscape in 1995. Since then, DVV has left an indelible mark, spearheading numerous initiatives aimed at fostering holistic development and empowerment. One of DVV's notable achievements lies in its support for higher learning institutions to establish programs in adult education. Furthermore, DVV's commitment to grassroots empowerment is evident through its support of community skill training centers. DVV's Integrated Women Empowerment Programme stands as a testament to its dedication to gender equality and social inclusion. The establishment and implementation of Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) and Integrated Functional Adult Education (IFAE) programs highlight DVV's commitment to addressing the multifaceted needs of adult learners. The introduction of the Community Learning Centers program underscores DVV's recognition of the importance of accessible and inclusive learning spaces. Moreover, DVV's innovative Learning System Building Approach and capacity-building initiatives for Master Trainers on Curriculum ClobALE reflect its commitment to advancing pedagogical practices and ensuring the sustainability of educational interventions.

As I reflect on the remarkable journey of DVV International in Ethiopia, spanning from 1995 to 2024, it becomes clear that DVV has played a pivotal role in advancing adult education and catalyzing positive change across the nation. Through its unwavering commitment to promoting lifelong learning and skills development, DVV has left an indelible mark on Ethiopia's educational landscape.

As I conclude my reflections on the conference. My analysis of the conference gave the highlights on the lessons learned and to contemplate how they might be applied in our contexts. I see the role of political commitment in Adult and Non-Formal Education (ANFE) programs. This underscores the urgent need to prioritize adult education as a catalyst for societal progress. One of the key takeaways from the conference was the imperative for needs-based adult education initiatives. As highlighted by Uwe Gartenschläger, Director of VHS DVV International, adult education programs must be tailored to align with the specific needs and aspirations of adult learners. Recognizing that adults cannot be compelled into learning, it is essential to design educational interventions that resonate with their lived experiences and address their immediate challenges.

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