How breaking barriers to education can break the cycle of poverty

POSTED mayo 31, 2021

How breaking barriers to education can break the cycle of poverty

Our interim country director in Ethiopia shares how helping one person can change many lives for the better

By Lemma Asfaw, interim country director, Ethiopia

Children and mother look at schoolwork

Poverty is one of the biggest barriers to education in Ethiopia. I’ve met many children from low-income families who are deprived of this basic right, because their parents can’t afford school supplies, transportation costs and other related education fees.

In fact, accessing quality education is almost unthinkable for poor children in Ethiopia.

Alem, a 38-year-old mother-of-two, knows that too well. Twenty years ago, she was compelled to move to the city from her rural childhood home where she lived with her parents; they couldn’t afford to send her to school.

“I came to Addis Ababa in search of a job,” recalls Alem. “I started earning a small amount of money baking injera (a local dish) and washing clothes.”

Alem met her husband, a day labourer, and they had two kids, but it’s been a struggle for the past 10 years.

So, our team, along with our local partner, Alem Children Support Organization (ACSO), came alongside the family. We provided $130 to start a business, access basic business training and enrol Alem’s daughter in the sponsorship program, giving her access to school. “The support significantly changed my life,” says Alem, recalling her journey to a new beginning.

Women picking lettuce in her farmer's field

Alem used the funds to start a vegetable-selling business, which was fruitful enough for her to eventually rent slightly more than half an acre of farmland for $70 per season. Selling what she was growing boosted her income further, allowing her to generate nearly $1,500 per year, about half of what a mid-level household would make in Ethiopia; her husband’s income as a day labourer has been making up the other half.

“I have been able to meet the basic needs of my family,” she tells me excitingly, noting she can now afford a home, food, clothing and to send her kids to school. “My son is in Grade 9, my daughter, is in Grade 3,” she shares, proudly.

And, this year, the entrepreneur grew her business further. “I rented a larger area of farmland for nearly $400 for one year to cultivate different vegetables,” she tells me, noting she now employs her husband and four young people, and she’s earning about $2,500 a year, almost double what she was making last year.

Alem is most grateful her livelihood is making it possible for her children to attend school so they can reach their dreams. “Thanks to God and Children Believe, and its partner ACSO,” she says.

Learn more about how you can provide support to a child in Ethiopia through sponsorship today.

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Children Believe trabaja a nivel mundial para empoderar a la niñez a soñar sin miedo, defender lo que creen y ser escuchados. Durante 60 años, hemos reunido a jóvenes soñadores valientes, simpatizantes, socios e idealistas. Juntos, nos impulsa una creencia común: crear acceso a la educación, dentro y fuera de las aulas. La educación es la herramienta más poderosa que la niñez pueden usar para cambiar su mundo.


A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.