Education for democracy in Ethiopia.

The last three to four months the Ethiopian government is moving ina hopeful direction. Releasing political prisoners, calling for opposition parties within the country and in the diaspora to work together, showing a good will to bring together the country that was divided in ethnic groups for the last 27 years, etc. is a positive stage forward. we hope this radical reform process will continue until it achieves its goal of establishing a stable democratic system in the country.

The new Prime minister in his speeches on different occasions is raising important issues. One of those issues that attracted my attention was education and the respect the society should give for teachers. For now, I will start with the issue of education in general and I will be back in another occasion to discuss about teachers.

One of the great American educationalists, John Dewey, wrote in one of his texts from 1889 “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” This strong statement by Dewey is emphasizing the importance of education for promoting democracy. In the education system from preschool to tertiary education there is a need to install the values of democracy and social justice. Already in the preschool children should start to learn to respect each other, to learn that it is ok to have different opinions on the same phenomena, to practice the equality between boys & girls, understanding and respect cultural and linguistic diversity, start caring for their flora and fauna. When on all levels we are orienting our children the respect for democratic values, we can see the future generation which is aware of its rights and will also respect others rights. A generation that will discuss, compromise and resolve conflicts in a peaceful way.

To build a future democratic society there is no alternative to investing in our education system from preschool up to universities. This includes both human resources and infrastructure. In this process, we also need to think to be fair in our treatment of the rural and urban areas of the country. There is a need for careful planning, implementing and evaluating our achievements. This process will help us to learn both from our successes and failures.

The few points I raised above could be the starting points for further discussions. This is not an issue we can reach a conclusion with just a few lines of comments. This issue has been there and discussions about it will continue for generations. Those working with education need to identify educational needs, share experiences, describe, analyze them and come up with recommenda­tions for transformation.

Getahun Yacob Abraham (PhD).