This is a guest post by Emma Woods, a 3rd year MSci Physics student at the University of Nottingham and a member of the ENTHUSE project team.
On my second day in Addis Ababa I found myself sitting in my hotel room having closed the door to what I had seen over the past 48 hours and a sense of relief came over me. I was overwhelmed. Before sitting down to write this I spent a good while thinking about how to articulate my experience; how I’m feeling, the sights I’ve seen and how it compares to the world I’m used to.
The first thing to note would be the astounding beauty of the area, Addis sits at the foot of Mount Entoto from which you can see breath taking views of this gorgeous grassland city. Atop this mountain hosts the historical palace built by Emperor Menelik II just 150 years ago and is surrounded by many colourful monasteries leading it to be considered a sacred mountain. A visit to the Entoto museum, led by a wonderfully succinct tour guide, showed just how full the heritage of this country is.
Moving back to the city centre it is clear to see there is rapid development with many high rises in construction in what will be the city’s financial district. There is also an increase in luxury services from shopping malls to spas so that, besides the differences in building materials and blatant disregard for traffic safety, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were in the west. Yet beyond this mask you can see real hardship. Many seem to have been left behind in the hasty development; the presence of the impoverished being forced to beg left me feeling unsettled. Despite the obvious guilt felt when I have to refuse my help, there is also disappointment in the level of support offered to them here. Whilst projects exist to tackle the housing problem in major cities, it almost seems like a token gesture when the infrastructure needed for sustainability severely lacking (e.g functioning sewage systems). The continued urbanization of Ethiopia is sadly sure to see an increase in disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
This brings me on to what I hope to achieve with my time here. Education is very important to me. I am a firm believer that an education is the most valuable thing a person can receive because it cannot be taken away. ENTHUSE captured my imagination from the beginning as I realised just how much impact it could have. Speaking to Bill and Christine who have both been working on this project for a good number of years, the positive influence is evident, even for simple things like labelled storage for the equipment at the university.
By improving the knowledge and skills of the teachers, and in turn the education of the pupils in Ethiopia, my hope is that we can develop the problem solving skills of the next generation ready to be applied to tackle the problems faced by those around them; now that is the ripple effect in action!