Ras ZeSilas  School, Ethiopia

Over the summer, our Communications Officer in Ethiopia, Behailu Shiferaw, visited Ras ZeSilas School – one of the oldest schools south of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

Ras ZeSilas School was built over 70 years ago and started out with just a small number of children. But now the school has grown, and facilities are too scarce to meet the needs of its 2,500 pupils. There is just one old tap for all students, which means many go thirsty.

The school is different to many others in Ethiopia as it has a long list of clubs that deal with specific health issues. The school has a special Eye Health Club because of the number of students who suffer from trachoma and other eye infections, mostly as a result of insufficient water and hygiene facilities.

Meet the staff and pupils

Tariku Tekele

Tariku Tekele is a staff member at Ras ZeSilas School, Ethiopia.
Photo: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

Tariku Tekele, 57, is a biology teacher. In his spare time, he is also a coordinator of the eye health club, which was set up to combat increasing cases of trachoma infection at the school.

"Trachoma spreads so quickly because children come here and interact with children who barely have any water to wash with, so the bacteria easily goes from one to the other," says Tariku.

Tekalign Sahile

Tekalign Sahle, 14, is a student at Ras ZeSilas School
Photo: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

Tekalign Sahile is 14 years old. He has been suffering from poor vision and painful eyes for over two years. “I have a burning feeling inside my eyes, it’s itchy and it gets really red and cloudy. Sometimes it’s as if I am seeing through the clouds. I have seen doctors about six or seven times,” he says.

Tekalign wants to be an ophthalmologist when he grows up. “I want to be able to help children in my situation both medically and also financially. That's why I signed up to the eye health club. I don’t want other kids to go through what I'm going through.”

Hiwot Walelign

Hiwot Walelign, 17, is a student at Ras ZeSilas School.
Photo: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw

As a class monitor at the school, one of Hiwot's roles includes looking after the water tap. “We make sure students wait for water in a queue and drink it responsibly. We used to only have one small tap and so we did our best to look after it," says Hiwot.

A new waterpoint

Thanks to support from schools like yours, this year pupils and teachers at Ras ZeSilas School can look forward to a brand new waterpoint, where 14 pupils can access water at the same time. The new waterpoint will stop pupils missing school to collect water, and give them the chance to concentrate in class and fulfil their education.

It also means pupils will be able to wash their hands with safe water after using the toilet, preventing the spread of eye diseases such as trachoma.