AAU – home of aristocracy and aversion

Dear Editor,

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education has sponsored a large number of graduate (Masters and PhD) students from the universities all over the country. Addis Ababa University (AAU) is the host for the majority of the studies, and the number of graduate students at the university now is ten times the number a few years ago, of whom I was one.

I am a PhD student at Addis Ababa University. But the inhuman way we are treated by some officials and secretaries of the university is getting worse by the day. Go to any high ranking offices in the university and you will witness that the secretaries are the watchdogs. They ask you all possible questions as to why you came there and give you all possible reasons that you cannot see their bosses. If you say you are a student there, then everybody in the university, including most lecturers, think that you haven’t had any experience, expertise, dignity and personality.

In most parts of the world, the use of computers and the Internet has made it possible to reduce paper works. Advisors and supervisors can receive and read their advisees’ work by email. Test and exam results can be posted and accessed by students on web portals. Schedules, notices and calls can be group-emailed or SMS-messaged to students and staff just by respective secretaries or office assistants.

I did my BA degree at AAU more than14 years ago. There are a few changes between now and then. As the country’s pioneering university, AAU should have been leading in developing technological infrastructure, such as wireless internet; e-library; centers for stationery, print and copying for the benefit of students, staff and the university at large. At least the lecturer would not lose or misplace research papers, which is often the case.

Yet, as a PhD student, I am wasting my time roaming from Arat Kilo to Sidist Kilo, from one library to another, searching for a better internet access and stationery services.

Submitting copies of papers, proposals, chapters and thesis by email to the department is unthinkable. They must be submitted in two or three copies of printouts as they used to be done 10 or 15 years ago. Also, most lecturers feel anxious about using computers and the Internet.

A decade or less ago when PhD programs were rare the university admitted a very small number of candidates in only a few programs. Then the lucky PhD students were given offices and office facilities. They were also considered as staff members and were assigned courses to teach.

In less than ten years, the university is admitting thousands into PhD programs without due consideration for infrastructure developments, financial support and supervision capacities. Most PhD students, who have families and cannot get housing in Akaki campus, are just wanderers in search of a residence and a place to work.

I don’t believe that there is a shortage of budget and expertise to instill these change-stirring facilities. After all, don’t such circumstances severely hurt the quality of education that the government is crying out loud for?


PhD Candidate

 Lalibella – a symbol of shame?

Dear Editor,

Recently I watched a documentary on CITY TV channel, a prominent TV station on Bell Satellite Chanel No. 253 here in Canada. This is a TV station that has an outreach through all direction in Canada airing programs in different times for different parts of the country.

Be that as it may, the documentary that I have mentioned earlier was about our own Lalibella. However, instead of portraying the uniqueness and wonders of the Lalibella Rock Hewn Churches, the documentary was obsessed in showing the beggars in and around the Churches including – supposedly – a priest inside one Church who was filmed begging for money and receiving back.

One of the seven UNESCO registered places in Ethiopia, Lalibella is known for its mysterious rock hewn churches dating back centuries ago. However, the film crews for this documentary have documented a disturbing scene showing hundreds of beggars in and around the Churches who have nothing to do but sitting in wait for the arrival of foreigners at the scene. The fact that the so-called journalists have focused on this instead of what Lalibella really is should not come as a surprise; what disturbed me was these beggars were real, they exist and they do what they are filmed doing. The documentary is not what shamed Lalibella; the beggars are. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Ethiopia must clean this shame and embarrassment off of Lalibella before it invites foreign journalists to come and film.

Mesfin Tsegaye


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