Higher Education Readiness Program

Pilot program provides young women in Ethiopia with a path to university

NEW YORK and ADDIS ABABA, May 8, 2013—The Institute of International Education has selected the first 100 students to take part in a new pilot program to provide girls in Ethiopia with pathways to university. IIE’s new Higher Education Readiness Program (HER) will provide girls entering 11th grade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, with scholarship support combined with innovative leadership and life skills training to help them complete their secondary education and equip them with the tools they need to continue to university. The HER program is part of  IIE’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives, which develops and manages dynamic, innovative and substantive programming to cultivate and support women as leaders and change makers around the world.

IIE recently convened independent selection panels in Addis to select the first group of students to take part in this exciting new opportunity. In the inaugural year, 50 girls from each of two schools will receive tutoring, academic support and skills training, as well as help preparing for the higher education qualifying test. The HER Program will also provide students with targeted resources such as school fees, transportation, books and uniforms to help them complete secondary school. [Selected student stories are below.]

Research has shown that although 32 percent of girls in Ethiopia enroll in 9th grade, only 3.5 percent continue to 11th grade, and even fewer advance to university. This has a profound impact for workforce development and for the economic advancement of the society as a whole.

“Imagine what the impact would be on the girls, their families and their communities if we could significantly increase the number of girls who are equipped to enter university, and provide them with the support they need to make that vision a reality,” said IIE Vice President Edie Cecil, who was recently in Addis for the selection of the first round of girls to participate in IIE’s new HER Program. “The educators we met with are talented and deeply committed professionals, and we look forward to working with them to provide as many opportunities as possible for their students.”

IIE’s goal for the new three-year pilot project in Ethiopia is to refine an effective model for a secondary school scholarship program that will not only increase girls’ participation in higher education, but will also achieve greater scale that IIE can then expand in Ethiopia and replicate in other countries.

Experts agree that educating girls and women is critical to economic development.  According to a World Bank report on Girls’ Education in the 21st Century, educating girls is one of the most cost-effective ways of spurring development, and it correlates positively with increased economic productivity, more robust labor markets, higher earnings, and improved family and societal health and well-being, a major component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) goals.

The Institute of International Education is committed to expanding access to higher education globally.  Drawing on IIE’s extensive experience in managing scholarships and conducting leadership and skills training, this new program aims to identify and address the obstacles that are keeping girls from entering university, and to provide financial resources as well as tutoring and enrichment activities that will prepare them to succeed in higher education and subsequently in the workforce.

During the pilot phase, experts in IIE’s Sub-Saharan Africa office in Addis Ababa, together with staff in IIE’s New York and Washington offices and our Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives in San Francisco, will establish best practices for creating pathways for underserved secondary youth, particularly girls, to pursue higher education.  Drawing on this experience, the Institute will bring partners and potential funders together to address these needs in a cost effective way that will have maximum impact on the girls as well as their families and communities.

IIE welcomes expressions of interest from potential partners who wish to advance these goals. For further information, please contact HER@iie.org.

A few of the girls who were selected for the first year of IIE’s Higher Education Readiness Program :

  • Rediet lives in Addis Ababa with her parents, five sisters and a brother, on a small monthly income. She helps her mother, who dropped out of school after 6th grade, with the chores. Her dream is to be a cardiologist because the heart’s functioning is critical to human survival. “It is especially agonizing to see babies and young people suffer from heart disease.”
  • Kalkidan is an orphan who lives with her older sister. Their only source of income is their brother’s salary. She dreams of becoming a doctor and opening an orphanage. “I believe and I know that I will be what I wish to be in the future….I  believe I will make these dreams come true with endurance, courage and vigor.”
  • Since the death of her father, 19-year old Aden has lived with her mother and two brothers. Her mother has been the primary breadwinner, but she has had limited job prospects due to her 8th grade education, and she currently works as a temporary janitor for a government office. Aden wishes to study science so as to be able to stop yellow fever, the disease which took away her father, from preying on others. She strongly believes in gender equality. In her words, “If given equal opportunity, women can demonstrate that they have the capacity to manage the world in a much better manner.”

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

IIE’s presence in Sub-Saharan Africa has spanned over 30 years. From 1979-2001, the USAID-funded South Africa Education Program opened the doors for black South Africans to obtain the knowledge, skills and professional credentials required to succeed in a post-apartheid government. In 2008, IIE established an office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we implement a strong set of programs in leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and higher education scholarship administration. By creating and administering exchange and training programs, IIE helps develop the talent and human resources needed to address the challenges and harness the opportunities emerging on the African continent.


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