The following story is not uncommon in the depressed region of Raya-Azebo in which our project schools are based. With too few places in high schools and preparatory schools (9th to 12th grades) and virtually no vocational training, the lure of illegal migration is huge. Lesley reports from Mehoni:
“The day after I arrived in Mehoni was a sad day indeed. While we were checking on the construction of a rain-water collection system at one of our sub-project schools, we saw groups of people being transported by bajaj ‘cars’ to funerals. There were seven funerals in two villages outside Mehoni that day, four of them for students who had finished their final high-school exams just a week earlier. They had fallen prey to illegal migration agents.
Using the prospects of finding well-paid work in Saudi Arabia as bait, these agents had collected a group of 15 students between the ages of 17 and 20 from villages around Mehoni. Of course, the students or their families have to pay for the agents’ ‘help’. Many fall into unpayable debt in the process.
The kids were driven overnight to a point at which they were supposed to continue on foot in the direction of the border of Djibouti. According to the scant information available, they were given maps for the journey, but had very little in the way of supplies. Remember, these are kids with scant knowledge of the world but desperate to find a way to make money, especially if they think they won’t get to the next level of schooling after their 10th grade exams.
During their journey through a desert area, two of them died of thirst and exhaustion. A third student died later when he drank contaminated water, likely when they passed through a settlement on the way. A fourth student was shot by border guards (we don’t know on which side of the border) when he apparently resisted arrest after being spotted. This student’s younger brother travelled with us part of the way back to Mehoni after the funeral and told us what he knew. There has been no further news of the fate of the remaining members of the young group.”
YOU CAN HELP US PUT A STOP TO ILLEGAL MIGRATION!
Last year, Ethiopian Enterprises began a pilot high school scholarship program to help young people build a future in Raya and resist the bait offered by migration agents. For just CHF 300 a year, you can support a student for schooling or training, and help him/her to create a future and contribute to the Raya area. Our first year of this program in 2017-18 was a great success, and the program will be expanded in the new school year starting in September. Some of our students have done exceptionally well and can look into the future with renewed hope. So please contact us if you would be willing to help a student/s in this program for the coming school year.