Ethiopia: A Country with No University! by Yiheyis Aemro
The current motto of Addis Ababa University is “Change@AAU”. Why now? Who told them that this university is badly in need of a change? What inspired them to opt to such a slogan now after doing whatever they wanted to do to desecrate this pioneering shrine of higher education in the country like a poorly trained sentinel says “Stop!” after firing? Who is then going to be responsible for the downfall of this university?
Well, whether you hide it or not, whether you titivate it or leave it as it is, the real beauty of somebody or something is always there with the entity it belongs to. Moreover, the more we speak of the magnificence or the beauty of somebody or something, the more exposed they will become among the public in such a manner that everyone takes note of any single move by the entity in question. It is very important to read between the lines, for example, if we happen to see an advertisement written like this: “This water tank doesn’t change the taste of the water!” Suspect the worst, guys. As soon as we see such an advert, the suspicious man amongst us may instantaneously retort, “Aha! Why do they say this? Does it mean the water tank changes the taste?…” As languages are most often employed to conceal the truth, we should be careful to trust anything told or read. Let’s ‘not be the slave of words’ as one Scottish historian put it nicely. And I remember a saying which denotes the use of a language to conceal the reality rather than to tell the truth. Enough is said as an introduction to the ‘Introduction to Addis Ababa University’.
A friend of mine and I went to Addis Ababa University last time. As we were walking towards the office we were heading to, suddenly some ugly words came out of my mouth without the approval of my conscious mind: “What a stench! I smell a putrid stink of this university.” These were the words, to confess here to you. And my friend, as a matter of luck, shared my emotional remark and echoed the same feeling. Physically the campus was rather beautiful and some constructions are undergoing to expand the facilities. Then how did my subconscious reflected something against the facial beauty of this old campus of AAU, despite the fact that it was once an exemplar higher education institution in Africa during the reign of Emperor Haile Silasie I? What changes have been made since then that have turned this ‘one – to – its – mother’ university to be seen currently as the worst high school in the Sub-Saharan Africa? I do remember that this university was called ‘the best high school in Africa’ during the Dergue. It is heartbreakingly lamenting that it couldn’t even maintain that relatively benign name and has now degenerated to the worst of high schools in the countries of the ‘underworld’. Why? Could there be any relationship between the obliteration by vagabonds of a country and its educational institutions?
It is beyond my capacity to explain how this university could encounter all the problems it is immersed in now, albeit it doesn’t need any research to identify the chronic problems it has been facing through out its existence up until the present time. The major problem we all know is that it has never had academic freedom and especially in the Woyanne’s Regime, I do believe that this University is serving as one major war front to destroy the country’s intellectual and historical property so that the nation will never resurrect in the future even after this brutal government will have gone. Though it would be difficult to me to say many things in regard to how and who are responsible for the total decadence of this University, nonetheless, I shall pinpoint just a few observations I happened to come across including the time of my studenthood in the early ‘70s.
Understandably, it is obvious that the quality of education, whether it is qualitatively high or low, can be metered by the performance of the graduates when they join the work force. In light of this, it has been clear among the employing stakeholders that most of the graduates from Addis Ababa University or any of the universities in the country for that matter fail to satisfy even the minimum requirement of the profession their certificates of graduation state along with the ‘Honours, Previleges, and Obligations’ thereof.
In regard to instructors, the majority seems to be qualitatively low in the teaching profession and void of interest and dedication towards this delicate career through which a society is built, a country is developed and a generation is transformed into a higher level of material prosperity and spiritual upheaval. As a matter of fact, if a country lacks devoted educators and enlightened leaders in every walk of life, that country is subject to various dwarfisms. And that is what is happening in Ethiopia. Sorry to say, it was Addis Ababa University which was sentenced to be hanged first before the entire collapse of the country was declared by the Woyannes some 20 years back. Until 1991, AAU was somehow trying to survive, though the interference of the Dergue was visibly seen in a significant manner. But since the time those 42+ instructors were sacked, and the management of the university fell in the hands of the narrow-minded ethnocentric people, the deterioration continued unabatedly and now it seems the university is found in a situation where every thing is out of control. To your surprise, the staff of the university has no access even to many of the websites on the internet to which every refugee and dissident in the outside world has a 24/7 access without being supervised or checked, just free of charge or with a minimal rate. The privacy of instructors is invaded to the extent of being unable to communicate with friends or colleagues through their email addresses, for the Woyanne people in the server’s room control everything done in the campus. They access every document of instructors including their email chats and anything they do on their computers via the sophisticated gadgets installed for the purpose of surveillance. The people in the server’s room can read the emails of instructors, according to the information I received from a friend who works there. And if one tries to use any of the proxy sites to unblock Ethiopian websites, like for example ethiomedia.com or ecadforum.com, it is absolutely impossible to access any one of them. Instead, the logo of the university pops up and presents the breaking news that you are denied an access to such politically “taboo” sites in Ethiopia. This is Addis Ababa University in brief. This incidence itself clearly indicates that the teaching staff along with other employees of the university is reckoned as modern slaves who can speak but cannot demand any of the human or citizenship rights they deserve. If the suppression by the Woyanne is such frightening and terrible at AAU, what do you expect it to be among the ordinary ‘laymen’ elsewhere in the country? Isn’t it surprising to have such sleepy academia in the 21st century of the IT age? On my behalf, I got ashamed of them, especially when I learned that they are like pet animals to the Woyanne government. Can’t they gather momentum and ask their officials for free access at least to the internet? If the so called intelligentsia is wading in such a muddy quagmire of oppression and suppression, who else would dare to even try to ask the Beast to loosen the yoke?
The number of spies in the campus is almost equivalent with that of the number of people to be spied. No one can talk freely in the compounds of AAU. The situation of the campus is rather similar with that of the situation of a concentration camp filled with prisoners of war or a jail in which people are afraid of even their own shade. It is a pity to see Addis Ababa University in such a sorry state. Most of the spies, whose ethnic background is mostly from that of the ruling junta, are ‘students’ of the university who neither graduate nor withdraw or get dismissed. They are shamelessly there for years until they are finally replaced by a new crew. They act like a student so that they can get the trust of the innocent ones.
When I was in campus last time, of all the things that struck me most was the grouping of students. You observe students in smaller and bigger groups; a pack of Tigrians conspiring here, a hedge of walking Amharas dispiritedly cursing their luck there, a molehill of Oromos threatening down over there, a mound of Southerners slandering here, a pile of Afaris blabbing there, etc. Quite lamentably and as is expected from the present tune of ethnic politics, the language of these groups is different one from the other, seemingly, the groups have almost nothing in common, they rather look antagonistic to each other. This group talks in Oromiffa while that one, over there talks in Tigrigna or Amharic or any other Ethiopian language. Naturally, the use of different languages by different groups in the campus per se doesn’t have any problem. The problem is the insincerely implied overconfidence when some students talk in their mother tongue the tone of whom could tacitly be understood that they want to convey a certain negatively ionized provocative message or skewed impression to others. This sort of unnatural polarization is rampant in the campuses of AAU, and such tense situations are purposely instigated through the first grade sponsorship of the ethnocentric government we have in Ethiopia. As members of the youngest generation, these students should have something in common to which they all give their prior attention instead of forming various yet disconnected enclosures that cannot help them in any way. Simply put, they are the scum of the lost generation and unless they get conscious sooner rather than later and shift a gear, they will definitely remain as victims of the Beast. I don’t know whom I am calling the ‘Beast’. But I suppose this Beast should be the one who has spelled over us, Ethiopians, the abracadabra for the prevalence of permanent chaos in our country in such a way that we shall never find the antidote easily may be until the time we all will have been perished. Though the course of Ms Nature is meanderingly unpredictable, for the better or the worse sides, when we see the modus operandi of Ethiopian politicians and the public at large, the future doesn’t seem to hold anything positive. Anyways, He knows. Who else is expected to know, dear readers, the final scenario of such absolute anarchy and national degradation?
In connection with the quality of personalities, as mentioned earlier here above, most of the instructors are academically poor, even there are some who don’t deserve to enter the campus as a guest, leave alone offering courses. Behaviorally, as there are decent and well behaved instructors, there are on the other hand some others who wouldn’t totally fit the job. Among others, discriminatory grading based on sexual ‘bribe’, ethnic and religious affiliation, bias and prejudice, inability to check or correct students’ examinations and/or assignments fairly and duly, lack of good classroom management, lack of preparation on lessons to be delivered, lack of good command of language to properly deliver the lessons, absence of accountability, carelessness, inability to cope up with the current status quo of the world through reading materials or attending discussion fora, and gluttony are the most devastating common denominators amid problematic teaching and service providing staff. Such demeaning behaviors of instructors and employees are also purposely encouraged, even incentivized through promotions and financial subsidies by the regime, for unless the instructors themselves are spoilt first, the generation to be entrusted to these ladies and gentle men wouldn’t be ruined as implicitly understood from the strategic plan of the 100 hundred years of the great home work given by EPLF to Ethiopians through TPLF. As a matter of fact, the mission of Woyanne is to destroy Ethiopianism along with those citizens who claim to be genuine Ethiopians. I remember the interview of Issayas Afeworki with The Economist, he said, ‘Securing the independence of Eritrea is very easy; what might be difficult is maintaining the existence of the independence everlastingly. To that end, we[EPLF] are working with EPRDF so that the independence of Eritrea will stay unaffected forever….” (Sorry, it is not word for word.)
In general, this university should have been a place where justice would prevail, but it is a place wherein injustice is flourishing. This university could serve the country as a tower of intelligence and scholasticism but it has turned itself against such domains. This university should epitomize and be an advocate of democracy and human rights but it is unfortunate that it has become a parody of such cherished values of an enlightened society. This university should serve as an example of harmony and reconciliation but it is alarming that it has become a center of discordance and dissymmetry. This institution should play a role in halting conflicts and checking the power of the political hub of the country but it has become a victim itself due to the influence from those myopic people who have seized the reins of the throne. AAU should have been the quintessence of well mannered Ethiopianism but regrettably it has become the worst of its kind in the realm of academics globally. This university should produce academically excellent, socially interactive and problem solving, attitudinally positive thinkers, and morally courageous citizens who stand for the human and citizenship rights of the mass and fight for the democratization process to succeed and good governance to prevail in the nation. But this university is practically proliferating morally decadent, psychologically egoistic and narcissist, academically inept, behaviorally immature, sexually super active and religiously loose citizens. Therefore, in light of the discussion herein, most of all, this university should firstly free itself from the fetters of blinding illiteracy which is laminated by such unyielding titles like ‘PhD’ and the like because of which it has astoundingly been disintegrated, before it dares (to) attempt to be a remedy for others. Truly speaking, a blind can’t lead a blind. If so, both of them will fall headlong into the abyss of the thickest darkness. AAU, wake up, and do miracles!
Finally, before I come to my closure, let me take an opportunity once more to praise Dr Dagnachew Assefa of AAU who has recently broke a record in silencing silence itself and spoke the truth about Birtukan Mideksa. Let God bless you, Dr. We need more of your likes especially at home who can remind Woyanne of the fact that Ethiopia mothers not only the cowardice and the traitors but also the brave and the gallant.
‘Dinner with a condom’ at AAU,
There was a certain doctor at AAU. It is a real episode by the way. This doctor was HIV positive. Everyone knows that he was positive and he also knows that everyone was not unaware of his HIV status.
One day, he told one of his she – students to appear in his office, as this tradition is wont to few of the ‘Most Educated’ Honorable Professors and Doctors. She went and entered his office after undergoing the usual ceremony of entering an office, such as clearing the throat and knocking at the door before getting into the room. Then, after the salutation, he says, “I would like to invite you for dinner, this evening,” she answers, in deep surprise and shocking, in fact, “No, thanks” His prompt Freudian slip was, “Don’t worry, it is with condom.” Can you imagine a “dinner with a condom”? Yes, it is because the place is Addis Ababa University. If we keep on mentioning such absurdities, you will get this nominally grandeur institution very disgusting and you may become desperate even to the extent of not sending your children to this university. Look, if AAU is like this, how about the others which are mushrooming in the country just for the sake of writing a good report in regard to expanding higher education? We know these empty campuses all over the country are without qualified instructors and facilities needed to run those utopian academic programs. They are simply waste of time and the limited resource we have. In this regard, can we really say we have universities especially when compared to the state of the art in the modern world, like for example assigning students in a remote ‘university’ whose instructors are mentally as well as physically as young as their students, and in most cases they are there merely to win their daily bread?
By the way, when are we going to have at least one good country, at least one good leader, at least one good university, at least one common flag, at least one good stadium, at least one good political party, at least one good nationalistic legion of army, at least one good highway, at least one good Olympic size gymnasium, at least one truthful Moses that can show us the real essence of liberty,…? It is homework to every one of us.