Spotlight: The Haile-Manas Academy, A New World Class School in Ethiopia

Image from a video introducing the upcoming Haile-Manas Academy, co-founded by Ethiopian American author & philanthropist Rebecca Haile, pictured above as a child in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: March 20th, 2019

New York (TADIAS) – When the Haile-Manas Academy (HMA) opens its doors in Debre Birhan in 2020 it will be be among the top high schools in Ethiopia featuring international-standard curriculum and a brand new educational facility.

The private school is co-founded by Lawyer, Mother, Author and Businesswoman Rebecca Haile whose work we first featured in Tadias in 2007 when she published her memoir titled Held at a Distance: My Rediscovery of Ethiopia.

“The Academy will be a world-class co-educational secondary boarding school for 400 students of promise recruited from across the country and admitted without regard to financial circumstances,” says Rebecca. “It will be a model school in and for Ethiopia – the first of its kind.”

Rebecca, who lives in New York City, says she is inspired, like many Ethiopians around the world, by Ethiopia’s new-found optimism and sense of collective civic responsibility ushered in by the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“The timing is right for this transformative undertaking,” states the website for the Ethiopia Education Initiatives (EEI), the U.S.-based organization that’s overseeing the building of the high school. “With a GDP of just $783 per person (PPP $2,100), Ethiopia is burdened with an antiquated education system, yet it has the world’s fastest growing economy in 2018, and a population of over 105 million with a median age of just 18.” EEI adds: Ethiopia is ready to transform itself into a regional leader and economic powerhouse – but Ethiopia’s young people, its greatest asset, must be equipped to forge the way forward. An investment in the Haile-Manas Academy is an investment in Ethiopia’s future – in educating its future leaders and its most engaged and impactful citizens.”

The official ground-breaking for the Haile-Manas Academy was held three months ago and “guests included government officials, community leaders, representatives from various organizations” as well as Rebecca’s friends and family.

“Beyond the ceremony, it was exciting to see a couple hundred construction employees working in parallel on over a dozen school buildings, many of which are already at first floor level,” Rebecca shares. “We are making great progress!”

For Rebecca, who is the daughter of Professor Getatchew Haile — one of the foremost experts in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’ez — her passion for education come naturally.

“It certainly wasn’t easy to be a refugee, to start completely over in a new country (central Minnesota to be precise),” she writes on the EEI website. “But for me, and for my sister and fellow board member Sossina, education was the key that unlocked every door. We had access to excellent schools and generous scholarship programs ensured that if we worked hard we could take advantage of every opportunity we qualified for.”

Ethiopian architect Fasil Giorghis is one of the project leaders helping to build the HMA campus with “beautiful, contextually appropriate buildings and a focus on local materials and sustainability,” says Rebecca who co-founded the school together with her husband, businessman Jean Manas, also an immigrant to the US. “In October 2018 we engaged Rama Construction, a top contractor. Along the way, we sought and received the support and good counsel of innumerable people in the U.S. and in Ethiopia, as well as critical financial commitments.”

The Board of Directors of EEI include Rebecca’s sister, world renown academic scientist Dr. Sossina Haile, as well as Former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Reuben Brigety; Mr. Jean Manas, Chairman of the Board; Dr. Liben Hailu, Chief Technology Officer at Duracell, a Berkshire Hathaway Company; and Ms. Caroline Brown, founder at Brown & Peisch, formerly Partner at Covington & Burling, LLP.

Below is a video narrated by Rebecca Haile introducing The Haile-Manas Academy and the inspiration behind the new school:

HMA Anthem from Haile Manas Academy on Vimeo.

You can learn more about The Haile-Manas Academy and support the Ethiopia Education Initiatives at

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