EDUCATION: Schools in Kembata-Tembaro

Ethiopia’s population tops 85 million. Ethiopia is a country in which literacy rates are well below 50%, and half the population is 16 years of age or younger. School enrollment figures have never topped 70%, and the school enrollment figures among children 6 years of age and younger are below 5%. A commitment to education and literacy is crucial for those living in this nation that has historically been a leader in Africa, and consistently stands as a bulwark in politically fragile East Africa.

Tesfa first began  working with children who were of kindergarten age,  because this was where there was the biggest need. In 2004, there was no public kindergarten available in Ethiopia. Only about 3% of kindergarten-age children were in school. Tesfa has since focused on supporting education for primary ages in the countryside. Recently the Ethiopian government has made a commitment to early childhood education, implementing kindergarten in urban schools.


Today, the Tesfa Foundation has three schools located in the Kembata-Tembaro zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR). In 2012, the first primary school was completed in Kembata-Tembaro in the village of Kololo. In September of that year, over 225 students started their education, many of them stepping into a classroom for the very first time.

Today 350 students in Kindergarten level (KG) through grade 4 attend the Kololo Primary School. Looking over the hills of Kembata-Tembaro, children at Kololo have access to education, a library, and a feeding program. Parents of the students are thankful their children can attend a local school and don’t have to walk a long distance to receive an education. The school director shares how when competing with other area schools in the region in academic contests, the Kololo Primary School students are often ranked highest in the group. Since the addition of the feeding program in 2018, school attendance has remained consistant and the student drop-out rate has diminished. School testing scores have risen and parents say their children come home from school with more energy and are healthier because of the feeding program.

Azedebo and Fundame

Beginning in October of 2012, the construction team of the organization began working on two additional schools focused towards preschool and kindergarten students. Located in the communities of Azedebo and Fundame, the two schools were built next to government operated primary schools.

In the fall of 2013, 400 preschool and kindergarten students began attending the schools. Since then, approximately 60 new students are added to the enrollment of the two schools each year, providing the students with an opportunity to learn the foundations of education and giving them a step-up and a step-ahead for the rest of their primary and secondary education. Three days a week, students also receive a simple lunch as part of the organization’s feeding program.

One father of an Azedebo KG School student has shared how the education of his young child has changed his family’s life. He states, “I may not have land to give my daughter or many material things, but I can give her an education. An education is what matters most in life.”

Students of the Azedebo KG School and the Fundame KG School are taught the basic skills of math, reading, and science, as well as Amharic (the main language of Ethiopia), their local language of Kembattan, and English. Students learn in a safe environment by dedicated local Ethiopian teachers.

LIBRARY: Dera Medhanealem KG and Primary School Library

The Dera Medhanealem Kindergarten and Primary School is located in southeastern Ethiopia in the Oromia Region. The school serves over 1000 students and is owned and operated by the Medhanealem Church. Although the students attend school each day, there is a shortage of Amharic and Oromiffa language books in the library, as well as other books needed for them to have a strong education. The Tesfa Foundation is partnering with the school to provide more books for the library that will be accessible to all children attending the school.

With a fundraising goal of $2,500, an assortment of over 650 books will be provided to the school to help improve the students’ education. Donate to the Dera Library here.


Team Tesfa

Since 2007, the Tesfa Foundation has worked among the long-distance athletes of Addis Ababa. For more than a decade, the foundation has experimented with a variety of programs to support these deserving young people with education and vocational opportunity. Programs we have sponsored:

Currently, Team Tesfa supports promising athletes with gear and small stipends in exchange for community service. We place athletes in The Tesfa Institute for Blind and Disabled and in the Nehemiah Autism Center.


The Women Athletes for Literacy and Learning (WALL) Program places young athletes in schools and school libraries to assist and to mentor children. With training and support from Ethiopia Reads staff in Addis Ababa, women athletes lead reading circles in primary school libraries and classrooms. They lead in the formation of book clubs. They assist school staff. Women athletes get a chance to see themselves in a different light. That provide confidence and motivation in their own education. Many are still finishing primary or secondary grade levels in night school. They gain work experience in a new and challenging environment, and they will be mentored by professional women.

Teen House

We discovered early in working among the athletes that the most vulnerable among their number were, not surprisingly, the teenage girls. They are quietly dedicated to their training, living out daily lives in dangerous circumstances, committed to that opportunity for education or success that never comes. The teen house was established in 2008 as an environment for four teens (ages 14-18) to have safe shelter and education, a chance to train and acquire the education and skills to make their lives better as adults, while they get to train with the team, and — more importantly — giving them an opportunity to live without fear. They live together in the house, go to school, and spend their afternoons training with the team and also training in the sewing program. We are working on building a program in which alumni from the teen program take turns running a small, resident NGO or charity that administers to the needs of the new teens and the women of Team Tesfa. This program is called the ‘Transitions’ program. More news on this soon!

Work Skills

Our ideal is to provide our athletes with the tools and dignity to run for love of the sport, rather than from a desperate drive to survive. One key is education. Another is vocational skills. In one recent program, five women athletes were trained in marketable computer and design skills while working on real-world projects for the Twin-Cities firm of Bond and Devick.