(26 March 2009) Observer from Addis Ababa University — Encouraged by the recent opinions on education in Ethiopia, I would like to add my voice to the current academic situations in the country. Until recently, I was a vice associate president of Addis Ababa University.Well, when I was attending classes in the early 1990s, Addis Ababa University was still the best academic institution where anyone can get a comprehensive knowledge. This was despite the instability that was present allover Ethiopia because of the war between Shabia (and Weyane) and Dergue. Even now, after visiting many universities in the west, that is what I can say and testify. But, I still envy the generation before us for they were able to get the best education for free. Unfortunately, this is not the case today.
Weyane has picked Prof. Andreas as a right-hand man and appointed him as a president. The message was clear from the start that there is a need to kill the status of the university. Actually, this has started earlier during the time of Genet as a Minister. Genet had no interest for a research, yet she was a staff member in AAU. Her inability to publish a study result forced her to stay where she was for many years. But, she saw this as a work of her friends and was waiting for a time in which she can avenge all those who were good for students and the university. She got this chance with the arrival of Weyane. After that, the entire Ethiopian people know what kind of education system she was told to promote, and what the result of that system is today.
Andreas simply extends her policy. As a guy who was left with no job in the US, it was a big opportunity for him to rule the institution he was not able to join as a student. Unable to do a single job, he sent letters to young staffs like me to join his team and build (now I say destroy) AAU together. The time was after I came home following my PhD study in Europe. Actually, I enjoyed the rare chance of jumping from position to position even before I went abroad for PhD. This was like Tesfaye G/Ab. Unlike Tesfaye, I had very little to do with Weyane. But like him I was given (at times forced to take) these positions just because I am from Tigray. I regret now all this. Before me, the positions were held by experienced persons like Mr. Marshal who can handle students better. As a Tigre, there is also that natural “temper” in me.
Anyhow, my arrival was good news for Andreas, and he offered me the position of vice associate president. As a person in the mid 30s, this was a big surprise for me. But at the same time, it was a good chance to climb the spiral ladder of life in Ethiopia. With months, the position changed me from an academician to an arrogant university bureaucrat. Andreas was sending everything to me and the burden of the job means I had very little time to answer questions from student. My relation with staffs went from bad to worse because many were thinking that I was a Weyane cadre. This even pushed me to the side of Andreas and followed the Weyane policy. Repeatedly, Andreas told me to ignore “chauvinist professors”, and that was what I did. Frequently, we were interfering in the works of the Registrar and gave orders to accept unqualified students. We have deducted salaries of staff members based on simple reasons, and blocked many from going abroad for study and research. On the other hand, our followers from the staff were rewarded with houses, bonuses (overload payments), positions, trainings, and scholarships.
Out of our hate for social science “chauvinist staffs”, we were trying to give attention to science and technology. This year for example, with a policy of increasing the number of students in technology, thousands have enrolled in many engineering departments. The same is true for science. As a result, it is becoming common to see more than two hundred students in a lecture hall, something which has never been observed in high schools. While it might be ok to give lectures in a hall, the problem comes during laboratory sessions. I doubt if a single person can see a test equipment in his/her time as a student. This will of course backfire in the near future. With the absence of laboratory facility, a university may try to expand its less demanding institutions like those in social science, but not technology, science and medicine.
Upon looking these activities and because of much frustration, I have resigned from my position very recently. Now I am a “chauvinist professor”. But, I have still anger, which developed out of the action I showed to many hard working teachers. It is not easy these days even to say “hallo” to them. Unlike me, many of them are kind and friendly. If a professor is not treated well, the result is known. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist in today’s Ethiopia. Weyane has brought many new professors from different countries. But, these are those who were unable to secure jobs abroad. Many of them are also Tigres, who were in Europe or America as economic refugees during the Dergue time. For instance, the IDR director (Mulugeta), though he is a geologist by profession, was directly assigned by Andreas because he is from Adwa. Dr. Araya (Tigre) came from America and immediately became a dean of the faculty of science although he is an engineer by profession. Hadush is a big boss in the Faculty of Technology although his first degree is from Arba Minch University and has nothing to do with engineering. These guys knew AAU neither as students nor as staff members. They are here just to serve Weyane. There were occasions when a meeting was conducted in Tigrigna because many of us were Tigres.
Things are a little different in Mekele University. At least, every department has co-operations with universities abroad set up by the Weyane government. Especially, universities in Austria, Belgium and Netherlands are order not to work with AAU. Instead, they have to train staffs of MU. Unfortunately, even in Mekelle, there are no high caliber guys. There is simply high amount of money. The MU knows only one Mitiku Haile as a president for more than 15 years. The person is highly corrupted and devoted Weyane who only knows how to misuse research grants. He is “multi-professional” and forces foreign and local researchers (engineers, agricultural professionals, scientists) to include his name in any article they publish. Because of his leadership, the university has never progressed an inch, although focus is still given from top Weyanes. As a result the level of education is not better than a private college in Addis Ababa.
Another institution where money is being invested on undeserving Weyane cadres is the Civil Service College in Addis Ababa. The college has all modern communication infrastructure including high-speed internet and a Video conference facility. AAU has been order to give many things which are found to be important to promote the name of this college. In fact, one person from this college has been given a top position in AAU to facilitate this looting. But, the minds and hearts needed to promote good education doesn’t exist even in this college. Many of the students are beyond their university age, and what they really need is a certificate with a stamp. Actually, many of the first degree graduates from this college are always trying hard to join AAU for their second degree. The reason is that if something happens in Ethiopia and Weyane is removed, then they can still find a job and lead their normal life using their second degree.
Don’t expect to see something good under Weyane. Their policy is not about education for all, it is certificate for all. Anyway, let’s work together so that god can limit their time in Ethiopia. Finally, I want to use this chance to offer an apology for those who were offended by my arrogant behaviors in Addis Ababa University as a high-level official.