A helping hand for South Omo
Jinka, the capital of South Omo Zone of the Southern Regional State is one of the destinations in the country where tourists flock too. Located 750 km from Addis Ababa, is also a center for sixteen indigenous ethnic groups as well as others pooled from the rest of the country.
Jinka University, found in Jinka City, was established in October 23, 2015. It is one of the 11 universities to be built, during the Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) period which covers 2015/16–2019/20G.C. Since its opening, the number of students has reached 4400 in the three rounds of enrollments. There are more than 200 permanent teachers and about 700 administrative staff. And for the coming year, 2021G.C, JKU is ready to accept 3000 students.
“Like other universities JKU has three missions. First is to contribute knowledge expansion and national development by providing quality and relevant education and training. Second is undertaking basic and applied researches and third is engaging in community services,” said Gebre Yintso (Prof), president of Jinka University.
Expounding on the mission, “With knowledge expansion, we did a lot of work starting from an amazing welcoming celebration to our first batch of students,” he said adding, “We have simplified the process starting from registration to placement using technologies. We have also facilitated a digital library system that does not require an Internet access and cable, which makes it easy for students to access books either using their phone or computer. Furthermore, we have set additional trainings for teachers as well as supportive tutorials for students, to strengthen the process.”
“Our second mission is undertaking basic and applied researches. We started doing researches in the second year (2018/2019G.C) because the government did not allocate money for us. In that year, 30 researches were done and results of the study have been submitted and we are in the process of publishing their report. And in this year's program, 47 researches were underway but due to the pandemic they could not continue. Another thing we did is organize various international and local conferences. The third mission of our university is community service. We have done a lot of work here. Our first focus was on education. There was a shortage of books and a lack of computers almost in all of the schools. So, we handed 950 computers for 35 primary and secondary schools located in 10 woredas of the zone. We believe this will help the students to be competitive with other Ethiopian students.”
We are involved in the conservation of natural resources. For example, we plant seedlings on Mount Gorgocha near Jinka, which is a deserted area. We have also provided various trainings for civil servants for the sake of capacity building and started the South Omo Cultural Festival last year. The purpose of this festival was to promote the culture, the music, the food and crafts, of the 16 ethnic groups in South Omo and generate revenue from it. Accordingly, the first round has gone well.”
Following the outbreak of covid-19 in the country, the university in collaboration with the regional health institute laboratory, has produced sanitizers and distributed it for free, to certain sections of the community in the first round and now are selling it at a fair price. Spending more than five million birr, the university has bought testing machines as the number of confirmed cases increased in the zone. According to professor Gebre, the machines will start conducting tests in the coming week.
Further, explaining about the community services Argachew Bochena, a lecturer and director of community service at Jinka University, said we have done a lot of work in the last two years.
“We have supported woredas around the zone by giving them 300 computers and 75 printers so that it can help them organize and store information safely. As far as the zone is a tourist destination, we provide trainings for hotel managers, tour operators, caterers, hospitality providers and various bodies. We gave 950 computers for 35 primary and secondary schools and train the teachers with basic computer skills,” he said. The university has also provided support when some part of the country was attacked by locusts, cholera and floods.
According to Argachew, more than 14 million birr has been spent to carry out community service activities.
Meles Maya, a resident of key afer Woreda and a former Woreda Administrator told The Reporter that he is very happy with all the work the university has done. He believed that there were unanswered questions for the community but since the opening of the university everything seems to be in shape. "The opening of the university has now answered the questions that have been in the community for centuries," he said. He also thanked the president of the university for his contribution to the community and for solving existing problems.
Jinka is located near the border of South Omo Zone with communities in this area largely pastoralists. In this regard, it is a society that is lagging behind in education and educational opportunities are not widely available. However, "When the university was opened, the uneducated community was able to get a closer look at it and gain knowledge," said Demo Bezabeh, the Chief Administrator of Bena tsemay Woreda, one of the districts in the zone.
“As a result, we, as a district, have made it possible for many governmental and non-governmental employees to study at this university. In addition, we have provided opportunities for local pastoralist children, to attend classes at the university by paying their fee. Currently, we are teaching eight pastoralist children. We also have given the opportunity for those who have not improved their education, but have been leading the people, to study at the university which is a great opportunity for us to create a well-educated workforce," he said.
One of the model high schools in Jinka was founded in 2008 G.C. Jinka Millennium High School located at alga kebele in Jinka city, rests on a very large area but has only eight classes, with more than 935 students from ninth to eleventh grade. “Lack of classrooms is the main problem to Jinka Millennium high School,” said Kassahun Hailu, the school's principal.
Over the past ten years, shortage of classrooms, lack of computers, lack of libraries and laboratory equipment as well as textbooks, have been a major problem for the school. "But thanks to Jinka University these problems are solved now," he said.
The university has facilitated the teaching-learning process by purchasing 50 computers and uploading textbooks on it. Apart from that, the university provides 50 student desks, bookshelves, and nearly 500 reference books for students to use in the library and also a 152,000-birr worth copy-machine.
According to Kassahun, the university’s presence in the area has benefited the community. "Everyone should pay attention to education like Jinka University," he said.