Wudnesh Asrat, 20, is a
Grade 11 student at Dagmawi Menelik Secondary
School, for which her aunt pays out of the 80 Br
pension payment she receives monthly. This income
also supports her brother and grandparents. On
Wednesday, December 22, 2010, she was sitting under
the shade of one of the trees outside the school
yard studying with three of her friends.
“I do this almost every afternoon after school by
borrowing books from the library to study as I do
not have textbooks,” she told Fortune.
Her lack of textbooks is not a result of being
unable to afford them, but there being no textbooks
to be had. The books meant for the new curriculum
that was implemented at the start of this school
year have not yet arrived, even though students have
taken their first semester midterm examinations.
The books, which are based on the new curriculum of
the Ministry of Education (MoE), form part of the
ministry’s General Education Quality Improvement
Package (GEQIP) project. It aims to improve the
quality of education at the general, technical and
vocational education training (TVET), as well as
higher learning levels.
Starting from assessing the need of teachers,
students, and parents, the curriculum has undergone
stages, including an analysis of the academic level
of students and their psychological capacities.
These preparation stages, which took five years, led
to the development of the final product, the
syllabus, which is to serve as a textbook for
students and a guide for teachers.
The costs of the curriculum development were covered
by the government and the World Bank (WB). A total
of 150 million dollars was allocated to the project
by the Fast Track Initiative Catalytic Fund under
the International Development Association (IDA) of
The MoE had floated an international tender in
August 2009 for the publication of the books. Star
Educational Books Distributors won the bid for
publishing and delivering 1.5 million mathematics
and chemistry textbooks and teacher manuals with an
offer of 8.1 million dollars. Pearson Education Ltd
was awarded the contract for publishing 1.5 million
copies of biology and physics textbooks with an
offer of 7.3 million dollars.
Pitnbra Books Company,
UBS Publishers, and Laxim Publications Ltd, all from
India, as well as UAE based Al-Ghurair Printing and
Ugandan based MK Publishers Ltd won the bids for the
publication of textbooks for other subjects.
All the publishers were expected to deliver the
books in September 2010, as stipulated in their
agreement. However, the textbooks for grades 11 and
12 are yet arrive at schools across the country.
To date, only the first three chapters of the
textbooks containing the new curriculum have been
provided in softcopy on CDs.
With the lack of textbooks, the only option for
Wudnesh, who cannot afford to buy other
supplementary books for her studies, is to study
from the school’s library books.
“I do not know how my aunt managed to pay the 170 Br
registration fee for the year,” she told Fortune. “I
cannot possibly ask her to spend more on books.”
It is not only Wudnesh who has financial
constraints. Menelik Preparatory School, which has
153 teachers, is also in a dilemma about how to make
“Printing the chapters we have on softcopy and
distributing them to all the teachers alone has
shaken the school’s budget, let alone printing them
for students," Waqoweya Keno, deputy principal at
the school, told Fortune.
Teachers have also faced major problems from lacking
The new curriculum was designed to increase the
participation of students in the learning process by
concentrating on student centric activities,
according to Bekele Gebremedhine, 49, a physics
teacher at Menelik who has been a teacher for 27
“We cannot assign assignments, group work
activities, or projects when students do not have
textbooks to supplement their activities,” he told
Fortune. “I have to give extensive notes in class to
make up for the gap as many of the students cannot
afford to copy the books from their teachers.”
The lack of textbooks might be what is affecting the
students’ performance as a higher number of students
in his class failed their midterm examinations than
the same time last year, according to Bekele.
“Close to 80pc of the students scored below the
passing grade,” he told Fortune.
Like Wudnesh, many of the students with financial
constraints attending public schools are having
difficulties in keeping up with their schoolwork.
Some try very hard to make up for the lack of
textbooks by buying supplementary books.
Amina Busser, 18, is also a Grade 12 student at
Menelik Preparatory School. She lives in Merkato
with her sister, five brothers, and parents. Her
family depends on the money her brother and sister
bring in by doing various odd jobs.
To overcome the problem of a lack of textbooks,
Amina bought supporting texts out of the monthly
income she earns from tutoring two children who are
in grade three and seven. The remaining money goes
towards covering her transportation costs to and
from her school, which is located at Arat Kilo.
“Seeing that I am in Grade 12, I want to be well
prepared for the Ethiopian Higher Education Entrance
Examination (EHEEE) so I used some of the money I
get to buy other books to help me study,” she told
The lack of textbooks is not only a concern of the
students who cannot afford alternative means of
supplementing their studies.
The students at Lideta Catholic Cathedral Girls
School, commonly known as Cathedral, located in
Piazza, mostly come from families that are
relatively well off. Students have the means to
borrow the teachers’ softcopies of the textbooks and
print it at their own cost, or copy the CDs and read
them on a computer at home.
Mekdelawit Tamirat, 16, is a Grade 11 student at
Cathedral. Unlike Wudnesh or Amina, she has access
to the textbooks for her subjects.
“I have a personal computer at home which my father
bought me,” she told Fortune. “I copy the relevant
chapters from my teachers on a flash disc and read
it at home.”
Chemistry, civics, biology, and mathematics
textbooks for grades nine and 10 are also in short
supply and the school distributes one copy to be
shared among two students. To add to the problem of
the shortage, some teachers are also unhappy about
the new curriculum and textbooks.
The books lack depth, according to Tsegaye Tadesse,
26, who has been teaching mathematics at Cathedral
since graduating in the subject from Addis Abeba
University (AAU), in 2007.
“Although the students have the copy, there is a
lack of reference and teachers’ notes,” Tsegaye told
Fortune. “I allocate a lot of our time in class for
students to copy my notes because the textbooks look
like a mere course outline. This is putting a heavy
burden on teachers and we are unable to include
additional activities in the classrooms in a single
Yet, it is the responsibility of teachers to make
the teaching and learning process effective in the
absence of the textbooks, according to Girma
Alemayehu, owner of curriculum development process
He attributes the delay of the textbooks to customs
problems starting from Mojjo Dry Port. The companies
that had been contracted to supply the books signed
a penalty clause that costs them two per cent of the
total costs if they do not deliver according to the
contract, in which the distribution of the books to
600 weredas within the country is included.
To date, the only explanation forthcoming from the
MoE is that it was caught unawares by the various
customs issues and was delayed because of it.
The role of the teacher is very crucial at this time
when almost all schools are without textbooks,
according to Solomon Wondimu, an expert at the Addis
Abeba Curriculum Development Preparation Education
Bureau, who agrees with Girma. Schools have
resources like libraries and computers with internet
access to provide reference materials to students
and teachers should provide students with notes, he
“The delay in textbooks should not make a difference
in the learning process,” he told Fortune. “In some
foreign countries, provision of the syllabus is
enough for students at this level.”
While teachers should work hard, the same is true
for students, Solomon argued.
“As the name indicates, this is a preparatory stage
for college, so students must acquire research
techniques by using the resources available on the
topics they study,” he told Fortune.
Amid all the academic discourse surrounding the
teaching and learning process, the reality remains
that books meant for grades 11 and 12 have not been
made available to the students who require them the
most. With four months of the school year gone,
students and teachers are at a loss as to how to
prepare for the EHEEE in five months’ time.
However, some schools started receiving the
chemistry textbooks on Thursday, December 23, and
the MoE claims to have cleared up the problem and
that they will be delivered to schools as of this