Education & Jobs

Growth in primary pupils


EducationIn this video…Addisu talks about his aspirations for the future. Addisu went to the Hermann Gmeiner college in Ghana, one of the best schools in Africa.

When Ethiopia emerged from years of unrest in 1991, only three million children went to primary school. Since then, the government has committed to providing free universal access to education.

16 million children are now registered at primary schools in Ethiopia, an enrolment rate of over 90 percent. However, remaining fees and costs (for example for uniform and books) make schooling unaffordable for some poor families in the long term. And in certain remote rural areas, enrolment rates are below 30 percent.

Class sizes are large and schools are often in poor repair. However, government spending on education has increased dramatically to fund a programme of building new schools and the training of many more teachers to cope with an increase in pupil numbers.

Unlike some African countries, primary schools are encouraged to teach young children in their mother-tongues, since research shows this helps with  learning. English is then used as the language of education at secondary level.

Leaving school at a young age

School is compulsory until a child is 12 years old (although this is not enforced). With a shortage of secondary schools, most children will have left school by this age, particularly if they are from poor families. They take on domestic or agricultural work at home, or try to find employment in local cottage industries.

Enrolment at secondary school is only around 25 percent.

Wealthy families can pay for their children to attend private schools, which have increased in number over recent years. Alternatively, Christian and Islamic schools continue to offer many youngsters a traditional education and the chance to train for a religious life.


WeavingIn this video… Addisu and Habtam have come to a weaving centre to learn about weaving. Ethiopian traditional clothes are made using this process.

Employment mainly in agriculture

Over four-fifths of Ethiopians work in agriculture. Many are small tenant farmers raising crops for domestic markets and also growing coffee.

Manufacturing and industry are still quite small sectors of the economy and firms are mostly located in the capital of Addis Ababa (though this is changing as other regions develop). Many migrants, refugees and young people travel to the capital seeking opportunities.

Though there is growing investment and modernisation, unemployment is still high in Ethiopia, running at 25% or more. Many young Ethiopians therefore leave the country to seek work.

The World Bank estimates there are currently over 620,000 Ethiopians working abroad.