Education International Barometer of Human & Trade Union Rights in Education
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
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  Pre-primary Primary Secondary Tertiary Spending % of
Ethiopia Total %F %P GER NER Total %F %P GER NER PTR Completion
% Total
% F
Total %F %P GER NER PTR Total %F %P GER GDP Public
2012 1429012 47.9 14532477 47.6 4 53.7 4736263 47.1 38.8 693287 31.5
2011 382741 48.4 97.6 14297969 47.4 5.4 55.1 4541623 46.3 11.3 40.3 632344 30.2
2010 341315 48.6 95.2 13635289 47.5 10.8 54.1 4206700 44.9 14.4 43.1 577594 30 4.7 22
2009 292641 48.7 94.4 4.02 3.3 13570558 47.5 6 102.47 82.66 57.9 49.32 45.85 3882551 43.4 34.44 47.4 401918 30.6 4.5 19.6
2008 263466 48.71 95.8 13379059 46.92 5.4 62.3 3696385 41.86 46.2 335471 27.1 5.4 20
2007 219068 48.7 95.3 3.1 2.51 12174719 46.53 95.08 74.8 3430129 39.96 32.06 255454 25.71 3.61 5.5 28.5
2006 186728 48.26 2.68 10971581 46.1 87.39 68.27 2992589 38.48 28.94 180286 24.24 2.64 5.53 18.85
2005 153280 48.54 100 2.23 10019729 45.07 81.61 62.34 72.28 2488465 37.27 24.94 27.87 191212 24.36 2.91
2004 138918 48.58 100 2.02 6489947 44.51 4.63 76.99 46.41 72.21 73.34 74.71 3920467 37.87 5.94 27.81 24.92 54.04 172111 25.16 22.73 2.49
2003 123057 49.15 100 1.81 6017305 43.06 4.71 72.82 42.25 68.9 59.04 59.39 3463586 37 5.76 25.36 22.81 54.25 147954 25.18 23.93 2.21
2002 118986 48.89 100 1.78 5813817 42.52 71.9 41.6 66.57 61.29 58.5 3133357 37.55 23.69 20.59 47.31 101829 26.38 18.75 1.57 4.59
2001 109358 49.14 100 1.66 5453405 41.65 69.08 39.81 70.32 64.94 63.12 2692881 37.93 21.03 18.41 43.95 87431 21.4 17.39 1.39 4.67 13.75
2000 99710 48.07 100 1.55 4873683 39.97 63.41 36.11 63.6 68.13 68.74 2167595 37.91 17.47 16.24 39.9 67732 21.68 1.11 4.72 11.28
1999 90321 48.97 100 1.43 4367929 38 58.52 32.65 63.6 61.84 63.42 1859406 38.2 15.46 14.29 35.88 52305 18.68 0.88 4.26
Last updated: 11 September 2012


The Head of State, the President of the Republic, holds an honorary office. Elected for six years by the House of People's Representatives, he has no real power. The position is currently held by Girma-Wolde-Giyorgis Lucha, elected in October 2001.

The Prime Minister controls the country's policies. Selected by the majority party in the House of People's Representatives, he is appointed for a term of office of five years, legally renewable once only. However, despite the provisions of the legislation, the present Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has been governing the country since 1995 with an iron fist. His coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), won the parliamentary elections held in May 2010. The opposition and international observers reported numerous irregularities and fraudulent practices. The European Union's team of observers issued a final report condemning the electoral process as "falling short of the international commitments assumed by Ethiopia".

The Legislature is bicameral:

  • The House of People's Representatives: comprising 549 representatives elected by direct universal suffrage every five years. It has powers in the legislative, fiscal and budgetary fields. Of its 547 seats, 152 are held by women (27.9%) .
  • The House of Federation: comprising 108 members elected by indirect universal suffrage by representatives of the regions. Essentially, its role is that of interpreting the Constitution. There are 22 women, representing 16.3% of the total. The House has 135 seats in all.
  • The Judiciary, centred on the Federal Supreme Court, is separated by the Constitution from the Legislature and the Executive.

    The EPRDF coalition is dominated by Tigrays, one of the ethnic groups. The government has been accused of relentlessly persecuting groups criticising its actions. The political parties need the permission of the regional governments to open local offices, and the regional governments are under the control of the governing party.

    According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the human rights situation in Ethiopia is still serious "The Ethiopian government has silenced critical and peaceful voices on various occasions, closed down the political space and restricted the media and civil society organisations". In October 2010, Birtukan Midekssa, the leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, who had been held in prison since December 2008, was finally released. Human rights activists say that there are still hundreds of political prisoners in prisons in Ethiopia, "sometimes subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment ". No independent national or international organisation has access to detention centres in Ethiopia. In the document "Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia" of October 2010, HRW underlines that external aid serves to maintain "a virtual one-party state with a deplorable human rights record". An especially worrying situation given the fact that Ethiopia is one of the biggest recipients of external aid, with some 3,000 million dollars a year (around 2,150 million euros), which represents over a third of its annual budget.

    The former Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA), now the National Teachers' Association (NTA), an EI affiliate, is the legitimate representative of Ethiopian teachers and one of the largest trade unions in Africa with over 150,000 members. Apart from supporting the rights and needs of teachers, NTA also defends the rights of students, demands quality education and opposes all forms of ethnic chauvinism and discrimination. It has resisted attempts by the Meles government to destroy it and opposes the intention to form teachers' unions for each of the ethnic groups in Ethiopia. For this reason, it continues to be attacked, its leaders imprisoned and its premises broken into by the police.

    Discrimination for reasons of race, colour, gender, language, national origin, opinion or social status is prohibited, but these protections are not rigorously applied and are violated by the government itself. The judiciary is subject to influence by the executive and those within the judiciary who are fighting for its independence pay a high personal and professional price. The law recognises the religious and traditional courts and the Islamic courts deal with cases concerning Muslims.

    According to the 2010 annual report by the US Department of State on human rights practices in Ethiopia, there were violations of human rights during the year, including murders, torture, beatings, abuse and ill-treatment of opposition detainees and sympathisers by the security forces, especially the police and local militias who took aggressive or violent measures with obvious impunity. There are also reports of harsh prison conditions and arbitrary imprisonment, infringement of citizens' right of privacy, restrictions on freedom of expression, harassment of people working for human rights organisations, violence and social discrimination against women, the exploitation of children, human trafficking, social discrimination against disabled persons and religious and ethnic minorities, forced labour and government interference in trade union activities.

    Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the most populous in Africa. Over 85% of the population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their subsistence. The State owns all the land and rents it out for farming. Economic activity in urban areas is concentrated above all in the informal sector. More than 12 million Ethiopians need urgent humanitarian aid to survive. Per capita GDP - 210 US$ - is one of the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The economic regulations passed by the government benefit the companies of those loyal to the party, which receive special benefits. The world economic crisis has seriously affected Ethiopia , which is suffering from the rise in food and oil prices and high inflation (over 40% in 2008) which, although apparently under control, is still high (8.5% in 2009). The IMF has granted the country successive amounts of aid totalling 290 million dollars. In return, Addis Ababa has undertaken to devalue its currency, the birr, and reduce the public deficit by introducing a severe austerity policy.

    All broadcasting bodies are under State control. Foreign journalists are used to working independently, but international correspondents report pressure from the government. The law prohibits the trafficking of human beings but the country is a point of destination for men, women and children who are victims of sexual exploitation and forced labour. Human trafficking from rural areas to urban areas for the purpose of prostitution and domestic service generates forced labour. Child prostitution is a problem, particularly in urban areas. Girls barely 11 years old are recruited for prostitution and are not informed of the risks of HIV/AIDS. The government does not meet the minimum standards for the eradication of the trafficking of human beings. Homosexuality is illegal and can be punished by prison sentences. Persons infected with HIV/AIDS continue to be discriminated against in society. Education International, in collaboration with intergovernmental bodies, has contributed towards the training of teachers in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

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    ?Education Rights

    Primary education is universal and compulsory and enrolment is free. However, there are insufficient schools to take in all the countrys youngsters, especially in rural areas. The cost of school materials is prohibitive for many families.

    In most primary and secondary schools three shifts are worked in order to increase attendance rates and allow children who work to go to school. The statistics indicate that 74% of boys and 59% of girls of primary school age go to school. But according to government reports, 29% of children give up school before the second stage of primary education. Conditions in schools and the saturation of classrooms prevent quality education. Only 22% of children reach the eighth stage. The government acknowledges that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 street children, some 60,000 of them in Addis Ababa; UNICEF calculates that in reality the figure is much higher. Orphanages cannot take in all the abandoned children who live in the streets. Unfortunately, reports continue to indicate that children are deliberately maimed or blinded so that they can earn more money begging. The literacy rate is 20.6% among women, compared to 42.7% for men.

    A study carried out in 2009 by the African Child Policy Forum indicates that it is difficult to bring those responsible for sexual violence against children to be brought to justice due to the incoherent interpretation of the laws among legal bodies and the way in which bail conditions are set, with the culprit frequently fleeing or coercing the victim or the family to drop the charges.

    The Barometer does not normally list individual cases of violations of rights, but the situation in Ethiopia is extreme. The following list, extracted from human rights reports over a period of 12 months, is given to show the extent of harassment and intimidation suffered by pupils and teachers.

    Two leading academics and activists in the defence of human rights were arrested for taking part in protests and are still in prison, accused of treason and genocide. Also still detained are some teachers, NGO workers defending civic education and independent journalists. The President of the ETA is in exile.

    The police beat up students, parents and teachers at institutes and universities in the region of Oromia.

    Following the disturbances at Addis Ababa University, the police opened fire and killed two students at the faculty of Kotebe.

    The federal police acknowledged the deaths of 26 people following a demonstration; some were students.

    The federal police responded to peaceful protests by Oromo students at Addis Ababa University (AAU) by arresting 330 of them. Various international NGOs reported that the detained students were transferred to the police academy in Kolfe, where they were forced to run and crawl naked for several hours on gravel. Later, they were released and expelled from AAU for what remained of the academic year. An undefined number of the 330 students were readmitted to the university.

  • In their report, diplomatic observers mention the beatings suffered by AAU students arrested in Oromiya.

  • No action was taken against police who detained hundreds of Oromo teachers and students for several weeks for allegedly supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

  • Violence broke out in classrooms throughout Oromia in February and March when students protested at the arrests in January and the expulsion of 330 Oromo students from AAU. The government blamed students for the altercations in Oromia, labelling them backed by the OLF. No evidence was provided in support of this allegation.

  • On 25 February violence erupted at the secondary school of Ambo when pupils demanded that the headmaster respond to the concerns felt by all of them at the suspension of students from AAU. The police entered the school complex to disperse the pupils, attacking several of them.

  • On 4 March, pupils from the Ambo institute and the primary school of Addis Ketema organised a march to the centre of the city which was dispersed by members of the regional police force of Oromia who fired in the air before starting to beat up the pupils. The police brutally attacked pupils, parents and teachers, according to local reports.

  • The police attacked dozen of secondary school pupils who were taking part in a peaceful protest in Dembi Dolo, in the East of Wollega in the region of Oromia. Local observers indicated that the police also beat up pupils at three institutes in Nekemite and detained dozens of pupils and teachers for weeks on end without any charges being made against them.

  • Two ETA members were imprisoned and tortured. Subsequently, charges were levelled against them and they returned to prison. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience

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    ?Early Childhood
    Education (ECE)

    A three-year programme begins at the age of three. At this level, all education is private. The gross enrolment rate (GER) is 4%. There are 4,795 teachers (90% women) working at this level. The pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) is 32:1.


    ?Primary Education

    Education is compulsory between the age of seven and twelve. Primary education begins at the age of seven and lasts for four years. The net enrolment rate (NER) is 83%. Of the pupils who start primary education, 50% reach the last stage. 7% of pupils repeat grades. 110,945 teachers (45% women) work at this level of education and 97% of them are suitably trained. The PTR is 58:1.


    ?Secondary Education,
    Vocational Education and Training

    Secondary education begins at the age of 11 and lasts eight years. 10% of secondary pupils follow technical training courses. The NER is 27% (43% girls). 9% of pupils repeat grades. There are 82,732 secondary school teachers, 60,134 (19% women) in lower secondary and 22,598 in upper secondary. The PTR is 57:1 in lower secondary and 47:1 in upper secondary


    ?Tertiary/Higher Education

    264,822 students (24% women) are studying at tertiary establishments, with a GER of 4%. 3,332 Ethiopian students are studying abroad, especially in the US (1,060), Germany (566), the UK (263), India (225) and Norway (163).


    ?Children with Special Needs

    Persons with disabilities continue to be discriminated against in Ethiopian society. Although the law makes it obligatory to rehabilitate and help persons with any physical or mental disability, the government has devoted few resources to this task. NGOs assign personnel to the child protection units of police stations in Addis Ababa to defend the rights of imprisoned minors. Minors go to prison along with adults if there is no room in the only penitentiary for minors under 15 years of age, which has 150 places. Minors receive hardly any education in prison.

    The Constitution does not establish equal rights for disabled persons. However, there are two laws which prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities at work and order access to buildings to be facilitated. The right to work for disabled persons was proclaimed in 2008. The law states that employers are responsible for giving appropriate work, training and materials to disabled persons. It is specifically recognised that women with a disability have a greater burden to bear. Limited measures have been taken to enforce the law.

    The new construction law published in May 2009 contains an article laying down the obligation to install access facilities in buildings for persons with physical disabilities. In addition, owners have to give disabled persons apartments on the ground floor. This is complied with in practice.

    Women with a disability are more disadvantaged than men in education and employment. A study by Addis Ababa University reveals that female students with disabilities had a heavier domestic workload than their male counterparts. The enrolment rate for girls with a disability was lower than for boys at primary school and this gap grew at higher levels of education. Girls with a disability were also much more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse.
    According to the Ethiopian Federation of Persons with Disabilities, there are approximately seven million people living with a disability. There is only one hospital for persons with a mental disability and approximately 10 psychiatrists in the whole country. There are various schools for persons with eyesight and hearing deficiencies and various training centres for children and young people with a mental disability. There is a network of prosthesis and orthopaedic centres in five of the nine regional states.


    ?Refugee Children

    The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and with the 1969 Convention of the Organisation of African Unity, which deals with specific aspects of the problem of refugees in Africa. In practice, the government provides protection against the expulsion of refugees or returning them to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The government generally cooperates with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organisations in providing assistance to refugees and former citizens. However, reports are still coming in on asylum-seekers being deported and also on Ethiopian exiles coming back from Yemen and being detained on their return to the country.

    Most Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin registering in the country receive identity cards and renewable six-month residence permits. This allows them access to public services, including schools. But there are reports that in practice government


    ?Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

    There are more than 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The Oromo form the largest group, representing 40% of the population. The boundaries established for the federal system roughly follow the major ethnic group lines, supposedly to give the regional states more control over their affairs. However, the result has been to intensify ethnic divisions. Most political parties are now based on ethnic origin. Amharas and Tigrayans from the northern highlands have a dominant role in the country. The officer corps of the military is Tigrayan. The employment of teachers and other government workers is terminated if they are not of the dominant ethnic group of the region in which they work. The languages used in education cause problems in many regions. Classes are given in the language of the majority ethic group, to the detriment of minority groups. The policy was poorly devised and implemented and continues to cause problems for pupils and teachers.


    ?Academic Freedom

    Academic freedom is restricted. Teachers can carry out research in their own discipline but they cannot express political opinions. Teachers at all levels are not permitted to deviate from the official syllabuses. Political activities are not allowed on campus, where uniformed police and plain-clothed security officers watch over those working and studying there. Students associations are permitted provided that they do not engage in any political activity. Students are aware of the consequences suffered by many who were members of the student union.


    ?Gender Equality

    The Constitution lays down the same rights and protections for women as for men. Traditional harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), abduction and rape are expressly classed as crimes, but these laws are not observed in practice. Women and children regularly suffer gender-based violence. One of the most frequent forms is FGM, which is still widespread. The most recent data available indicate that 75% of women are subjected to this practice. The abuse of girls is still a problem. Girls usually suffer female genital mutilation seven days after they are born and infibulation with the onset of puberty (the most extreme and dangerous form of female genital mutilation). Infibulation is punished by prison sentences of five to ten years. However, charges have very rarely been levelled at those responsible for FGM (it is often a question of members of the same family).

    The law classes rape as a crime, with prison sentences of five to 20 years, but it does not expressly refer to rape within marriage and the government does not fully enforce the law. Another problem is that cases are often not reported so the real incidence may be much higher. Domestic violence is also a widespread social problem. Although women can turn to the police and the courts, social norms and the limited infrastructure prevent many women from obtaining reparation through the courts, especially in rural areas. The criminal code provides for imprisonment for 18 to 24 months for sexual harassment, but once again the application of these provisions is very ineffective.

    The legal age for marriage is 18, but this law is not applied uniformly and girls barely seven years old can be married. There is only one hospital that treats obstetric fistulae caused by pregnancy at an early age. The maternal mortality rate is very high, partly due to taboos concerning food for pregnant women, poverty, early marriage and complications relating to FGM. Abduction of women and girls as a form of marriage is practised in the Southern and Oromiya regions. Discrimination against women is most acute in rural areas, where 85% of the population live.

    The law contains some discriminatory provisions, such as recognition of the husband as the head of family and the sole guardian of the children. The courts generally do not consider domestic violence to be justification for granting a divorce. The husband has no obligation to provide his family with financial assistance and, as a result, in the event of a separation, women and children often face being abandoned.

    In urban areas, women have fewer employment opportunities than men and the jobs available do not offer equal pay for equal work or work of an equivalent value. Access for women to paid employment, credit and the opportunity to own or run a business is even more limited due to their low level of education and training, traditional attitudes and limited access to information. The Ministry of Education has reported that the participation of women in undergraduate and postgraduate courses rose to 90,938 in 2008-09 from 33,146 in 2004-05, due to the expansion of higher education institutions and the establishment of gender offices at universities.


    ?Child Labour

    Child labour continues to be a serious problem in spite of the legislation; it is evident both in rural areas and in cities. The minimum working age is 14, although children complete their primary education at the age of 12. Between the age of 14 and 18 hazardous or night work is prohibited. Hazardous work is that in which machinery or the work itself can endanger a childs health. An ILO survey shows that 40% of children start work before they are six. 13% of minors start work between five and nine years of age and work 58 to 74 hours a week. Child workers are often abused. Children are trafficked from the Southern and Oromiya regions to work as domestic servants and are often subjected to forced labour.

    There are laws against child labour, but the government does not apply them effectively in practice and it is still a serious problem in both urban and rural areas. By law, children aged between 14 and 18 cannot work more than seven hours a day, between 10 oclock at night and 6 oclock in the morning or on public holidays or rest days, and cannot work unusual hours. The law defines hazardous work as work in factories or with machinery having moving parts or any work that could endanger a childs health. Sectors in which child labour is prohibited include passenger transport, electricity generating plants, work underground, street cleaning, etc.

    In rural areas, children work in agriculture, on commercial and family farms and in domestic service. They also work with livestock, in small businesses and ploughing and harvesting, whilst most girls collect firewood and fetch water. In urban areas, many children, including orphans, are employed in domestic service, often working long hours, which prevents them attending school regularly. There are children in urban areas who work in the building industry, cleaning shoes, making clothes, carrying loads, etc. Bodies defending child rights report that forced labour for children is poorly documented and they frequently suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of their employers.


    ?Trade Union Rights

    Workers have the right to join and form trade unions, except for teachers and civil servants. The government continues to interfere openly in trade union affairs in all sectors, especially in the banking and education sectors. Many trade union leaders are frequently intimidated and most are removed from their posts and/or forced to leave the country. The government keeps a close watch on the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU). The national bank tried to dissolve its workers' union with the help of the Minister of Labour, but the court ruled in favour of the union.

    Attempts by teachers to have their new independent trade union (National Teachers's Association - NTA) registered have been systematically blocked and various leaders of the old union remained in prison during the year. Some leaders of the former Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) spent part of 2009 in prison, where they were subjected to ill-treatment, including torture. Meqcha Mengistu, a secondary school teacher and President of the former regional executive of the ETA in Eastern Gojam, was arrested on 30 May 2007 and spent almost three years in Kaliti prison until he was officially pardoned on 16 December 2009. Wubit Legamo, wife of a former ETA activist, also arrested in May 2007, remained in prison until 21 July 2009. A legal report submitted to the Special Rapporteur on Torture of the UN and the ILO describes the ill-treatment received by her and former ETA members during their interrogation and detention in 2007. Other teachers were still waiting that year for compensation and reinstatement after being dismissed and/or detained and tortured because of their affiliation to the former independent union ETA, including Kassahun Kebede, Woldie Dana, Berhanu Aba-Debissa, Tilahun Ayalew and Anteneh Getnet. The last two have been missing since 2007. Teachers at State-run schools have to pay a subscription to the former government-sponsored ETA.

    Collective bargaining is permitted for most workers and, except for those employed in basic services; they have the right to strike. However, the provisions in force hinder the legal procedures for strikes. There has been no legal strike since 1993. There is no minimum wage. The government departments and public corporations have negotiated or established their own minimum wages. Labour legislation is still below international labour standards.




  • State of the World Population 2010. From Conflict and Crisis to Renewal: Generations of Change UNFPA, November 2010, (English)
  • Women in National Parliaments, World Classification March 2011, Inter-Parliamentary Union,
  • Human Rights Watch,
  • United States Department of State, 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Ethiopia, 8 April 2011, available at:
    -Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, ITUC-CSI, June 2010,

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    Country/Territory name Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
    Population 85000000 (2010)
    ILO Conventions ILO 29 (2003)
    ILO 87 (1963)
    ILO 98 (1963)
    ILO 100 (1999)
    ILO 105 (1999)
    ILO 111 (1966)
    ILO 138 (1999)
    ILO 182 (2003)
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