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Embracing a Culture of a Good Citizenship
(Above) the newly built pre school at Repi Elementary School, Mufid Sabir helping plant a tree to mark the inauguration of the new extension.

Embracing a Culture of a Good Citizenship

Just back from a business trip to Sri Lanka, Mufid Sabir, is excited to talk about his new found role - that of a responsible corporate citizen. The corporate leader, who is the Business Development Director of Repi-Wilmar, involved in the manufacturing of Soap and Detergent, in charge of developing the group’s activities nationwide and managing partner of Wilcom Trading involved in export of commodities worldwide – his face brightens when he talks about the change he is helping make in Repi where the company has a state-of-the-art factory.

In the city of Repi, that has become his adopted home, Mufid, son of renowned businessman Sabir Argaw, is fast becoming an advocate for education where he is finding his true calling, inside Repi Elementary School. This, in a place that was once a sleepy town, now a manufacturing hub to a slew of mega multinationals.

“Personally, I am excited to contribute to this school,” he told The Reporter as he sat next to the administrators, echoing the positive sentiment of the school. “I want to continue to help, provide the resources needed to have a facility where our youth can excel and achieve the impossible.”

It was seven years ago, when Mufid discovered the dire needs of the government run primary school, having just arrived from the United Kingdom where he attained an Economics Degree from the University of Hartfordshire. He had been watching a documentary about students that were fainting as a result of luck of adequate nutrition, dropping out of school because it no longer felt viable to be a student.

He was said to be heartened that the school was only few kilometers away from his factory, yet what he heard seemed painfully close. By then, the factory had been a source of pride for many, whose importance to the community was paramount, giving many vital jobs. But he had discovered that was no longer enough and he needed to play a bigger role.

“I saw a documentary in the wee hours of the night and I had a hard time sleeping and wanted to engage and help,” he said. “That role was important, for me and the kinds of institution and legacy we wanted to leave for the community.”

When he approached the school, the publicity it had earned through the media coverage felt overwhelming. It was netting it resources beyond its imaginations and many promised to stay in touch and help. He did the same and moved on.

It was after many years later, he would discover the problem had stayed, as donation dried up and many promises were not kept. He was touched and he took it as an opportunity to help. This time, he just did not want to donate, but help it in a meaningful way. He felt, young people should not be held back because of their circumstances.

“The second time I came to the school, I was received well and we had an informative discussion on how exactly I could help,” he said. “We knew there were some very bright, exceptional and gifted students and we wanted to help them excel.”

With the administrators, they identified the gap between government run schools and that of the private, the funding formula, access to knowledge, the infrastructures as well. The first investment he made this time around focused on the ICT Lab, as a basis to provide basic knowledge to students and teachers. Then, the next investment was on pre-schools, building immaculate classes for it as they felt it needed this areas needed to be expanded to allow it to capacity build and give a strong foundation to the children.

That 120 capacity pre-school was inaugurated earlier this year, in April and it cost 1.2 million birr, equipped with a standard similar to some of the private run schools within Ethiopia. For him, “A government run school should not be a last option; instead a place where what is offered there is also given here, allowing the same equal opportunity for all.”

In addition, with the support of the government, the vision became to support the school’s curriculum and ways of teaching and have it become a model for others.

“Mufid has not only helped us expand our school, but he had allowed our students to be fed, teach them to become better citizens by keeping their schools clean and has made them happy and content young people,” the school’s long-time fundraiser, Askalech Gizaw, told The Reporter. “I have come to him for all kinds of help and he had always responded to us positively.”

“The school has much potential, we have graduated young people who have gone to medical school and now we can finally dream to have, not a few, but many, because of Mufid,” she added.