JRDC School

Address: PO Box 696, West Arsi Zone, Shashemene, Ethiopia

Principal: Minyahil Kifle

Number of Teachers: 24

Number of Students:  584 (Co-ed)

Age Range:  4-16 yrs old

History

The JRDC School was borne out of the recognized need to embark on development in Shashamane, Ethiopia where many Rastafari immigrants had settled. Formed in 1991, the JRDC is now a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) registered with the Federal Government in December 2001. A project document was developed with the experienced assistance of Sis Shirline Hall, the consensus of the community and consistent with the aims and policies of the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia. The long term project objective was the establishment of the Shashamane Education, Skill Training and Recreation Centre the first phase of which was a community school for all children in the local population.

Earlier efforts at education involved home schooling by two brethren, Karl Hamilton and then Donald Leach. The arrival and fresh input of Albert Allen, ‘Teach’ transformed these early educational efforts into a school housed in zinc shed on space donated by the Twelve Tribes of Israel HQ in Shashamane. Albert Allen further consolidated the educational pioneering efforts by moving the school to another level on property administered by Sis. Joan Douglas where he was assisted by co-founders Janet McLaughlin and Yosef Leach. This was a modest school in a ‘chicka’ or wattle and daub building with 4 teachers and 30 children. At this stage, (year 2000) the Shashamane Foundation Inc. USA began working with the JRDC and the school by creating international awareness of their endeavors, keeping fundraisers to send operational funds to pay staff and erecting two new block and steel classroom buildings. These efforts enabled growth in 2001 to a student population of 150, and15 members of staff.

Agreement was reached between the JRDC, now a legal community NGO, and the School’s founders and Principal to include the already existing school as the first phase of The Shashamane Education, Skill Training and Recreation Centre Project. This enabled it to obtain legal ‘not for profit’ assistance from both local and international donors, accountable to the Ethiopian Government and supporters. The school received approval and certification from Ethiopian Education Authorities in May 2003 and was registered as the Jamaican Rastafarian Kindergarten and Elementary School executed by the JRDC. 

The School Today

In September 2007, an Acting Director, Sis Bunny Asher – (Angela B. Heron) a volunteer from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Jamaica, and Board member of two Donor Organizations to the project, was appointed by the JRDC in order to restore the stability of the rapidly growing school initially established by the team of co-founders. Sis. Bunny, who comes with years of experience in administration from the UWI has continued the recruitment of suitable staff; the introduction of proper educational management practices following guidelines set by the Education Authorities and compulsory regional and national rules for NGOs and assisted with the production of reports to the appropriate Ethiopian Authorities to ensure that reporting obligations are up to date. The previously used system of Home Room teachers, Department Heads and a Unit Leader, was re-established, and has facilitated the co-ordination of the staff and more efficient running of the School. The Class rooms – three in the Kindergarten and eight in the Elementary sections are now enhanced by teaching aids. Children are being given weekly tests to indicate the status of the learning, and teachers are being monitored and evaluated to ensure that teaching standards are maintained and improved where necessary. There are now 19 teachers, a secretary, an Acting Director, one Librarian, and 6 ancillary staff.

With reorganization under the new provisional management team, the overcrowded school population of 540 (caused from the local government closing some of their own schools) was reduced to manageable and desirable numbers of under 300, a situation in which students can receive better individualized attention because of a lower student/ teacher ratio.

Financial contributions in recent times have been primarily coming from the Shashamane Foundation Inc, USA and a handful of individuals. This has put a severe strain on the Foundation’s limited funds and on individuals on the ground in Ethiopia. The school is now in desperate need of funds to meet not only contracted teachers salaries, but daily operating expenses such as the lunch programme, the purchase of printer ink, paper, toilet paper, school books, glue etc. These basic costs are often met through contributions from individuals in Ethiopia and overseas. While Sis Bunny, the acting Director and staff have committed to bringing back the JRDC School to its full operational capacity, external funding is urgently needed.

Works Completed

Increased financial support from the international community facilitated continued growth and expansion – a new library was constructed, and in 2004, six new classrooms for grades 1-8 of the elementary school were added and the Kindergarten (KG) facility was expanded including a play facility, consisting of a slide and swings. The year after, a school feeding programme was implemented with the support of Focus on Africa, a non profit group in Canada. In recent years other major developments and donors included:

  • A secure metal gate with stone cut columns (replacing a zinc gate) the Rastafarian community of Hartford, Connecticut, USA, through the Shashamane Foundation;
  • A new art room – A Brother in London, England
  • Sanitary facilities for male and female students with separate toilets and a shower for staff – the Bob Marley/Rita Marley Foundation;
  • School Administrative Offices – Motherland Promotions of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in Jamaica;
  • International financial support also came from NEURO in Germany, Le-Reunion, and 12 Star Activity, Manchester, England, Ghetto Youth Foundation, Bob Marley Music, King of Kings Foundation, Motherland International Relations, RAS Inc., P&M Promotions and many other individuals and organizations.
  • In Ethiopia: Friends from the UN, JRDC Board and, community members and visitors to the school.

The ‘sponsor-a-child’ program initiated by the Shashamane Foundation has been a major strategy to secure funding for the central operational fund to pay staff and other expenses, as the school receives no Government Funding and Primary Education is free.


Works To Be Done

The JRDC is hoping that this update to all houses, mansions and donors and potential donors worldwide will encourage those wishing to support this school in Shashamane to commit or/and resume financial assistance. Strengthening the lifeline of support to the school is greatly needed, not only for current operational costs, but with long term plans which are summarized below:
  1. Monthly Operating Cost – Salaries and Operating Costs US$2,700; Annual Cost – US$32,400
  2. Building capacity for fundraising: One Staff member plus computer equipment – Annual Cost US$2,500
  3. Strengthening institutional capacity: Three Administrative Staff members – Annual Cost US$5,000
  4. Project Phase II: Implementation of Community Skill Training Centre: Projected Cost – US$25,000.

Any one of these costs may seem above your ability for assistance, but no contribution is too small. For eg. US$5.00 can cover the cost of one child’s lunch for a month, or US$80 can sponsor the education of a child for one year. Chairs and desks are also needed. Further information can be obtained from: www.Shashamane.org or the JRDC at jamrascommunity@yahoo.com. You may wish to identify one or a few areas to which you can contribute – as a one time contribution, or on an ongoing basis.

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