THE LION OF JUDAH HATH PREVAILED
The Next Ten Years
4. Social Services
‘Everyone who loves Ethiopia should concern himself with the founding of schools.’
‘In order to strengthen this partnership in the League of Nations we must increase the number of our schools.’
‘No one can doubt that the children of Ethiopia are lovers of learning and that their hands are open to receive education.’
‘Knowledge is a treasure that must be grasped.’
I have chosen some sentences from speeches delivered by the Regent during the years 1925-30. They are indicative of his feelings at that time of the supreme necessity for the education of his people. They were spoken at school openings, or prize-givings, at which he was a regular visitor. There is no sphere of public activity in which his interest is more keenly shown, nor in which his personal influence is more deeply felt.
It was contact with Europe that first made Ras Makonnen insist on education for his son. It was perhaps a visit to Europe in 1924 that made that son resolve to bring education to his people. He had visited most of the western capitals, Rome, Paris, London, and Stockholm, and was determined to bring the fruits of western civilization to the knowledge of his own countrymen. With the entry also of Ethiopia into the League of Nations he was stimulated to still further efforts, to see that his country should not be judged lacking in the realm of knowledge and culture. It was after five years spent in exile, in England, that he returned the more determined still to open the path to higher education.
What then were the possibilities of education before the Regent took up the cudgels on its behalf? In the early part of the twentieth century these were threefold: Church, Mission, and State. The arrangement is chronological. During preceding centuries education, of a very primitive type and confined almost exclusively to the priestly caste, had been given by the churches. Outside each thatched church there would gather round the priest or scribe a sprinkling of the sons of the upper class and of the local clergy, to learn by rote the Psalms of David, in the ancient Ethiopic language (Geez). After the psalms would come the study of the gospels—but all in a language that the boys themselves did not understand and might never learn. Even the priests who read the service in Geez might only have a very slight idea of what they were reading.
The actual mechanics of reading and writing thus acquired in the church precincts, the clever boy would then make use of them to enable him to read and understand the more secular Amharic; but it is obvious that education of this kind is a very restricted affair and that it was only the boy of marked intelligence or perseverance who could translate his knowledge into everyday usefulness.
When, therefore, the missions started work in Ethiopia education was one of the first tasks to which they brought assistance. The schools started by the Swedish Mission in Harar and Addis Ababa have been the early training-ground of many of Ethiopia’s best public men; and it was undoubtedly these and other mission schools that were the means of supplying the Emperor with some of the junior grades of that civil service which he so badly needed, and indeed still needs.
When, however, in 1908 Menelek opened the school which still bears his name, and this was enlarged and then in 1929 duplicated by the opening of the Tafari Makonnen School, there became available a steady stream of young Ethiopians who had received a good primary education and had also studied a foreign language—English, French, or Italian. Of these the most intelligent were then selected for further education abroad, and in 1935 some forty young men were actually undergoing training in various foreign countries and for many different vocations.
Sad to relate, it was many of these young men who lost their lives in the massacre that followed the attempt on Graziani’s life in February 1937. It is the deliberate extermination of the young intelligentsia of that time that has caused the shortage of senior members of the civil service, who are badly needed.
All this expense of education abroad was, before the Italian aggression, provided for by the Regent from his private purse. There was plenty of good material ready to hand in this slowly awakening country, and the experience gained in those early years was of happy augury for the future. It was amplified and stimulated during the four years that the Emperor spent in exile. As I have said, he was far from idle in those years, gathering all the time knowledge of men and affairs. With his own family of sons and grandchildren in the very midst of their educational years, he must have visited many schools all over the country, and with his keenly critical mind selected and appraised systems and methods.
When the Emperor returned to his capital he was faced with two major problems in education. Except in a very few districts where the Italians had, of set policy, encouraged schools among the Moslem elements of the population, there was nothing. The Fascist policy had been to nullify what had been accomplished between 1921 and 1935 and to deny education to all but a minimum of Ethiopia’s youth. There were no pupils in school, and worse still there were no teachers.
Within a year the Emperor had reopened the Tafari Makonnen School with an American missionary, his wife, and fifteen-year-old daughter as foreign staff, and a group of Ethiopians—priests, deacons, and older men who could start off with the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic. A Greek trader taught geography—within a month 1,000 pupils had enrolled themselves.
The other problem was how to help those boys and girls who had escaped the Fascist oppression and either in Palestine, Egypt, or Kenya had, during the years of exile, found the opportunity of elementary education and had now come back to their own country and found nothing to meet their more advanced needs. These boys and girls were keenly desirous to continue where they had left off; and though the British Council, which had established a centre in Addis Ababa in 1942, and others, were able to offer temporary help, it was clear that there was enough material available to make the beginnings of a secondary school. An old agricultural college, built by the Italians about five miles outside Addis Ababa, was secured and put in some sort of order. In little more than two years after the Emperor’s return the British Council had produced a headmaster from the staff of its institute, text-books for the teachers had been contributed, forms, desks, chairs had been hastily constructed, and in 1945 His Majesty cut the ribbon across the door and led us around the new Haile Selassie I Secondary School. Three of its first pupils have now taken their honours degree at Oxford.
From these simple, yet far from easily achieved beginnings, education has spread with almost incredible rapidity. Advice has been sought from many sources, teachers have been imported from many countries. The criticism might be levelled that there is lack of continuity in the policy adopted for the schools; that a system cannot be consistent which has Americans, Canadians, British, Indians, all with their own very varied ideas on just as varied educational ideals. The curriculum in the hands of this international group has as its academic bourne the General Certificate of Education of the University of London, though there are many offshoots into technical and commercial branches leading to internal diplomas. Yet there is much to be said for the point of view that the Ethiopian is seeking to establish his own system, and that only by experimenting with many will he find the one most suited to his own needs. So may the present kaleidoscope settle down to the pattern that is their final choice.
Another secondary school bearing the name of General Orde Wingate was established some two years later on the other side of the town. This has a British staff and headmaster and, like the Haile Selassie Secondary School, gives all its instruction in English, though there are of course Ethiopian teachers for Amharic subjects. This school has received considerable assistance in staffing from the British Council but is gradually coming under the full control of the Government. Secondary sections have also been formed in some of the larger elementary schools.
In this way, and as quickly as he may, the Emperor is slowly building up the ranks of the civil service and ministries as well as those of the banks and commercial concerns. Ethiopian youth learns its trade quickly, even if for the moment and perforce somewhat superficially, and wherever you may go you can see them in bank and office, in the shops and on the lorries. All are keen and deadly serious but, as is natural, with no conception of scholarship or craftsmanship. These are later developments that can only as the background of their lives expands, and open competition in a wider market, both academic and manual, becomes available to them.
Activities in the educational sphere have thus been developed and are developing at the moment along many lines. To quote from the handbook to Ethiopia:
The foundation of the University College of Addis Ababa in 1950 ‘came as a further logical step in the expansion of Ethiopia’s educational system.’ This college, which accepts students who have completed their school certificate in four subjects, provides opportunities for advanced studies which have been formerly only possible overseas. The aim of the college is to prepare students ‘to continue professional studies abroad, or later at the Haile Selassie I University now in the course of construction.’ After a four years’ course is completed the college awards Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.
An engineering college, developing from the technical school of earlier days, which now functions as a secondary school, and destined to be an integral part of the University, was opened in September 1952 under the name of the College of Technology—and again the General School Certificate was recommended as the condition of entry. Up to date it is not possible to secure enough candidates with this qualification, and other preparatory courses have been arranged to bridge the gap in numbers, until sufficient candidates can present themselves; at present it is arranged that after two years of instruction qualified students shall proceed to the U.S.A. to complete their education.
The Commercial School, which has been in existence for some years, trains boys and girls in secretarial and commercial subjects. Students are accepted from the upper grades of the primary, and from any grade in the secondary schools, and may work either for the special certificate awarded by the Ministry of Education or for the examination of the Royal Society of Arts, London. About 150 students attend this school, and many of those who have passed through it are already in good positions in the State Bank, the ministries, and many business institutions. There have been one or two attempts to start an agricultural eollege that shall give a training suitable for those who wish to promote what is surely at present the most important branch, potentially, of the country’s resources. Now there has been established at Jimma, to the south-west of Addis Ababa, an Agricultural Technical School, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and the Point Four (T.C.A.) Basic Agreement for a Co-operative Agricultural Educational Programme. This was opened for the admission of 70 students in October 1952, and has proved a great success, both practically and in securing the interest of other intending students, over 700 of whom have now applied for admission. So far the school is of secondary school level, and is planned to cover four years’ instruction both theoretical and practical. There is a small agricultural college now restarted at Ambo in the province of Shoa.
Lastly, but surely to serve the most important and pressing of all the country’s needs, comes the Teachers’ Training College, first opened with assistance from the British Council in securing staff, in 1944 at Addis Ababa. It has now been moved to Harar, where more accommodation is available, and with a view to expansion. But there is difficulty in finding enough would-be teachers to fill the ever growing need, and there is always a dangerous yearly loss of teachers to other professions. These are urgent problems which have to be faced if education is to go on expanding as it should.
Here then are the different types of secondary and advanced education already in being—some are still very young, and it is the students of the present day who will make the traditions and the character of these various schools. But the initiative, the guiding hand, the inspiration have come from the Emperor. Education is the interest nearest to the Emperor’s heart, as all who work with him know. He has been well served. Teachers and administrators—they are gathered from among seventeen nations this year—are fully aware of his intense personal interest in every school, in every college; and not only in education as a policy, but in the welfare of the individual children, boys and girls, who are in the schools. He comes to see them, often at their sports or their performances—but often also without forewarning, and unostentatiously; he goes into their classrooms, to their dining-room; he asks questions about their food and their comfort; he listens to their complaints; he brings them fruit during the fast from his own orchards. At the annual prize-giving he gives them their awards with his own hands; they come to greet him at his palace—all of them—on his birthday. He invites them at Christmas to receive their annual gift jersey. He talks to them, he thinks and plans for them. He personally selects many of those who go abroad to complete their education.
He is broad-minded enough to know that girls should have an equal chance with boys. The Itege (Empress) Menan School for girls is almost as old as the Tafari Makonnen School for boys—and the opportunities offered to girls are, on paper, exactly similar to those for boys, though in practice this does not bear the fruit that it might. The Christian influence is never more clearly shown than in the equality of opportunity for boys and girls, men and women, and the following excerpts from various statements made by the Emperor on education may serve to show the viewpoint from which he looks into the future.
In addition to the founding of these many schools and colleges a most important adjunct to education was the opening in 1944 of the National Library. This not only contains a general library which, from its original collection of mainly Italian books, has through gifts, and as funds and circumstances have permitted, come to possess a very cosmopolitan collection of books; but is also the museum in which old manuscripts, historical treasures, and a collection of books about Ethiopia are kept.
For the few occasional readers who used it at the beginning it has grown to attract numbers of readers daily. There is a large reading-room as well as a magazine-room; lectures are held at regular intervals. It was on the opening of this that the Emperor spoke words which are clear evidence of his own attitude towards education in its broader aspect:
Finally, as he unveiled the statue commemorating the murder of one of the bishops, Abuna Petros, who died rather than betray his country:
Next to education—the well-being of the mind—comes the Emperor’s care for health and welfare. In the light of progress and achievement it is interesting to note the changes that have taken place in the capital and in the country, and to compare the situation in 1920 with that in 1955.
When he became Regent in 1916 there was little to show of medical, health, or welfare services throughout the country. In Addis Ababa there was one hospital, which had originally been equipped and staffed by a special Russian Mission at the time of the battle of Adowa. Then the Government engaged French doctors and others, who were assisted by nuns from the Catholic Mission. It served perhaps one in a thousand of the town’s population. There was hardly a trained nurse in the whole of Ethiopia and no facilities for Europeans except the services of private doctors. There was nothing to be done in those days but to rally the community (there were just thirteen British Europeans) and to take turns whether trained or not to nurse the sick. I well remember during my first few months in Addis Ababa assisting the English doctor at a confinement, doing night duty on a case of puerperal insanity, and sitting one whole afternoon with a patient suffering from D.T.
It was obvious with the growing Ethiopian population as well as the advent of Europeans, whose numbers were rapidly increasing, that facilities must be increased and improved. The arrival of American Presbyterian missionaries from the west, where they had started some medical work, instigated the Emperor to issue an invitation to them to build and staff a hospital in Addis Ababa. The result was the George Memorial Hospital, built on a site provided by the Emperor, but financed, equipped, and staffed by the Women’s Board of the Presbyterian Mission. This was followed by a second hospital set up by the Seventh Day Adventist Mission, which later became a memorial to the Empress Zauditu and dealt mainly with maternity cases. Both these hospitals were first-class, and Europeans as well as Ethiopians found them kind, competent, and helpful.
The Emperor took a keen interest in the building of these hospitals, going down often to inspect, staying to watch operations in the theatre, paying visits to the patients in the wards. It was an interest which he passed on to his younger daughter Princess Tsahai, who later, when in exile in England, trained at Guy’s Hospital and assisted at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. It was a cruel stroke of fortune not only for her sorrowing parents but also for her country when she died. It was not only her qualifications but the activity and vigour of her personality that had been so valuable to her country.
Since the war an ante-natal clinic has been set up in her memory by her own countrywomen, and a fine hospital, largely built with the moneys of the English people who had known, heard of her, and respected her.
A leprosarium—the work of the Sudan Interior Mission— was opened in 1934 with a Canadian doctor and staff of twelve nurses. Eighty inmates were admitted and others treated at the clinic attached to it.
All these were in the main the work of missionary societies who saw and met the crying need for help. But as proof, if necessary, of his own realization of the need for further medical assistance to his people, the Regent opened in 1926 the Bethsaida Hospital, which was founded and maintained by his private purse. Though its buildings and equipment were on a small scale, fine work was done by the Swedish doctor in charge of it, with his two Swedish sisters. One of the great services they rendered was the training of Ethiopian women as competent and intelligent nurses.
Meanwhile, clinics were started, first by the municipality and police, a Pasteur institute was founded and maintained, and the Italians built a hospital which they handed to the Emperor, ‘as a token of friendship,’ in 1934. Everything had his ready support and approval. Now, twenty years later, we can look on that picture and on this.
The Menelek Hospital has been almost entirely rebuilt; the Bethsaida with its two small blocks, capable of holding 30 beds, has been transformed into the Haile Selassie I Hospital of 160 beds, with an international staff. The hospital given by the Italians has been named the Ras Desta after the Princess Tenagne Worq’s husband whom they killed. The Russian Government have equipped and staffed the Dejach Balcha. The Princess Tsahai hospital stands as a fitting memorial to the young princess. Staffed mainly by British doctors, matron, and sisters it has within the last few years trained its first group of Ethiopian women nurses.
In the poor market district of the town stands the St. Paul Hospital under a Yugoslav director and staff, and here treatment is free. The hospital is maintained from the Emperor’s privy purse as his personal charity.
There are in addition many clinics, notably that in Addis Ababa for women and children outside the Tekla Haimanot Church in the busy market area. Directed by an indefatigable woman doctor it deals with an average of 300 cases daily. This is only one of 150 scattered up and down the country and staffed in many cases by Ethiopian dressers who have received an elementary training in Addis Ababa.
In the same way provincial hospitals have been established in most of the larger towns; the total number functioning in Ethiopia is forty-six, and the number of patients treated in both hospitals and clinics during the year 1952-3 was well over half a million.
The leprosarium opened in 1934 with its eighty inmates has grown to house 1,300, who are being treated through the large supply of silfatron received from the World Health Organization, who sent out a specialist to survey the situation. Meanwhile four other centres for the treatment of the disease have been established in outlying parts of the empire.
Enough has been said to show that the provision for the treatment of the sick has during the Emperor’s lifetime increased and improved beyond all possible expectation.
But apart from actual treatment much has been done to combat disease. The ‘Institut Pasteur d’Ethiopia’ has extended its services to cover the production of vaccines against smallpox, typhus, rabies, and cholera. An entomologist attached to the institute has made mosquito investigations, and anti-malarial campaigns have been set in motion; a centre has been established for venereal disease treatment; in co-operation with W.H.O. and with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund a widespread B.C.G. vaccination campaign is being carried on to combat tuberculosis. Special anti-epidemic teams are ready for service as need arises in any district.
The training of nurses continues at four hospitals and some of these trainees have already received their diplomas and licenses as fully trained nurses. A few have been sent abroad for further education and some five of these have now returned to take positions in the various hospitals.
Finally there has been established at Gondar a Medical College and a Public Health Training Centre under the joint auspices of the Ministry of Public Health, the United States Operations Mission (Point Four), the W.H.O., and the U.N.I.C.E.F. Here Public Health Officers are to be trained whose duties will be a combination of doctor, sanitary inspector, and health educator.
To all these activities is lent the personal interest of the Emperor. You may meet him any afternoon driving through the town, only the flag flying on his car to warn you who is passing; and you know he has been to see something—school, hospital, clinic, new construction of building or road—to see with a practised eye whether it is progressing, to encourage, to reprimand, to exhort, to hasten. A visit is no idle survey; no organized reception with bouquets and speeches and whitewash—those are reserved for a special occasion. But there may be only half an hour’s warning and then His Majesty is there, walking into every room, talking to the individual child, sympathizing, observing, commenting, suggesting. All is his own personal concern, with the result that he is not the remote autocrat, king within the four walls of his palace, but the true father of the people, his eye to see their needs, his ear to listen for their requests, his mind to plan, his purse to pay.
Electronic edition created and published online by members of the
November 5, 2019