A child wants to lead his own life. But here in Ethiopia, were raised to help our parents and our siblings. Its a backward-looking life. … In other societies, children are raised to worry and care for their children, for future generations.
Ms. Derebew grabs the mantle from Mr. Getachew and does not let go. The new generation wants to live an American or European life. If you work here, the wage is very small. So you cant live the life of Americans unless you have a good job. And for many graduates, theyre afraid to go and work in the countryside. They are attached to life in Addis Ababa, where theres music, good food, macchiatos and cappuccinos — civilization in a broader sense.
Ive seen classmates use drugs and become addicted. Our parents were strict when they raised us. We didnt go out. It was school and home. That was it. At university, were free. There are parties and qat [a plant whose leaves are used as a stimulant], which makes you want to smoke and drink and stay out late. … Its easy to lose spirituality.
As if on cue, Abba Groum inserts himself.
Thats true. Im seeing people who have no knowledge of the capital city and are unaware of urban life until they come to university. This changes the whole dynamic, the Jesuit adds. More and more, I see many staying after graduation, which was not happening when I was a student.
But the economic reality of Ethiopia remains the same. Its the great preoccupation in the lives and minds of our students. Lifes becoming more expensive. And finding a job after graduation is a crisis unlike before.
The Qeddase (or eucharistic liturgy) celebrating a feast day dedicated to the Virgin Mary has just concluded at Bata Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa. The church doors swing open and sunlight floods the candlelit interior, making visible clouds of incense. All at once, the faithful stream into the morning sunshine. Among them is Abebe Solomon, a lanky 23-year-old. Considering his circumstances, the young man has little to celebrate nor enough means to feast.
A physical education student at Kotebe College of Teacher Education, he lives hand-to-mouth with his three sisters and one brother in a tiny two-room apartment. He moved to Addis Ababa from the countryside five years ago to pursue his education. Repeatedly, however, he has had to suspend his studies; he is unable to afford the cost of tuition, which seems to rise every year. Between job hunting and studying, Mr. Abebe has little time for a social life, and not enough money even to consider a family.
Girlfriend? he asks. I have nothing. How can I reach for her? My education is my girlfriend, he laughs.
Heading toward Addis Ababa Universitys campus, and in no rush to get home, Mr. Abebe dips into a cafe popular with students for a cup of tea.
Unable to make ends meet, he admits he is struggling. He cannot turn to his parents for help — they are subsistent farmers with whom he has limited contact.
I cant talk about that, he says when prodded about his parents.
At the moment, Mr. Abebe cannot find a job that pays enough for him to support himself and finance his education.
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Tags: Ethiopia Education Economic hardships Employment Diversity