Fregenet Foundation: Creating a Future for Our Children Through Education

By Azeb Tadesse

The Fregenet Foundation works with a most vulnerable, often overlooked population: children. The foundation is named for a girl’s dream of returning to Ethiopia and working with disadvantaged children.

Fregenet was exceptional, and touched lives of many around her. Her friends remember her as “…friendly, good-natured, and showed good sense.” To her family she was a “symbol of all happiness, love and warmth.” She had decided on completion of her education to work for a non-profit. Her dedication brings to mind the saying, “Upon our children – how they are taught – rests the fate – or fortune – of tomorrow’s world.” The day before her tragic accident, she interviewed for a children’s non-profit, graduating from Metropolitan State University, with a degree in accounting, a month earlier. On that faithful day, she was blocks from home when a car fleeing police clipped her SUV causing it to roll, and fatally injuring Fregenet.

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Above: Fregenet Tafesse, 1974-2003

Rather than let her dream die, Fregenet’s family resolved to keep her alive by picking up where she left off, and realizing her vision of working with children. A friend eulogized her by saying, “If we talk today about Fregenet’s smile, her warmth, her love, her generosity, her compassion, her humility, or her courage, it’s not just to praise her, but to speak to you, the people left behind, the people who have to live in this world. Gifts like her, granted to us from heaven, come few and far between. Do not let her go without deep contemplation on what you have learned from her.”

What her family learned was the importance of caring for the less fortunate, and for the future generation. They established a foundation dedicated to providing education to children from low-income families in Ethiopia. The first Fregenet School (Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat) opened its doors in the fall of 2004, and enrolled children between the ages 4 to 6 from a small, impoverished community in Addis Abeba.

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Above: Students at Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat

Importance of early education

Nelson Mandela said that, “Education is the great engine to personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation.” Early education is when a child’s emotional, physical, and intellectual environment has profoundest impact on their future. In the West, the importance of early childhood education have been documented and integrated into public education. In Ethiopia, kindergartens are not part of the public school system, therefore only available to a few children. It is up to private institutions and individuals to invest in pre-school and kindergarten. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, in 2003, only 2 percent of kindergarten age children are in school.

In the US, research indicates students who had early scholastic exposure are employed sooner, less likely to be on welfare, and less likely to have a punitive experience courtesy of the criminal justice system. Programs such as Head Start illustrated the impact of early childhood stimulation. A study by the Abecedarian Project, which provided pre-school for 111 African-American families in Chapel Hill, North Carolina found:

35 percent attended a four-year college before age 21
By 21, 65 percent were either still in school, or gainfully employed.
At age 3, I.Q. scores were 17 points above average.

Importance of early education in Ethiopia

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Ameliorating the plethora of Ethiopian problems in the future requires an investment in high-quality education today. Studies imply preschool and kindergarten education can decrease early pregnancy and the consequent female dropout from basic education, help overcome economic barriers, and increase aspiration for higher education. Within the national education plan, preschool and kindergarten are not a priority. Most resources are directed towards grades one to eight, and to vocational education. Provisions for early education are provided by non governmental organizations a nominal fee, and for a significant fee by private institutions.

Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat (an NGO) is attempting provide children in one neighborhood in Addis Ababa with the elements for a successful life. Children learn academically: math, English and art, as well as hygiene and social IQ. Many are from extremely disadvantaged households where often times there is just one parent struggling to make ends meet. If not for the school, many of the children would be left to their own devices and spend the day on the streets. Instead, they are nurtured and cared for by dedicated staff and their families in turn have a peace of mind knowing their child is safe.

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As Fregenet foundation celebrates its third anniversary this September, it would seem that Fregenet’s promise to the children is being fulfilled through the foundation. In the years since its opening, the school has increased enrollment from 31 to 100 students, it has moved to a larger location and has even added a first grade class to accommodate its first graduates. Future plans include programs for the children’s parents such as computer labs, library and even a clinic. These new programs are intended to improve the home and family lives of the students and extend their learning and growth from school to home. Most importantly, the expansion of the programs to include parents acknowledges that children’s environment plays a big part in their education and future development and to be effective one must also work with their larger environment for “[E]ducation commences at the mother’s knee, and every word spoken within the hearing of little children tends towards the formation of character.”

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To find out more about Fregenet and the Fregenet Foundation please visit: fregenetfoundation.org

3 Responses to “Fregenet Foundation: Creating a Future for Our Children Through Education”


  1. 1 aklilu wendaferew Apr 4th, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    This is indeed a wonderful work. May god bless those who help the children, the futures of our nation.

    aklilu

  2. 2 PHILIP TAH FON Apr 30th, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Our organization is in Cameroon called CARITAS FORUM and we work for rehabilitation of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS by enabling them attain at least a primary school education in compliance with the UN millennium development goals of education and the new partnership for Africa development or NEPAD. We seek partnership with organizations sharing our philosophy and ideals about children who are very great gifts of GOD.

    Thank you

  3. 3 Zekarias Getachew Sep 9th, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Be strong!!!!!!

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