From Dessie, we drove about two hours north to Woldia, a little town with a fairly new college. We thought it was a brick works when we first drove through the gates there was so much construction going on. Shelagh Hubbard and David Kidd were waiting for us in a little corrugated metal building. Shelagh has been there a little over a year, running the English Language Improvement Center, (aka the ELIC program). The room was full of cheerful diagrams, colourful charts, desks and a couple of computers. Shelagh has started a debating club, a girl’s club and a drama and reading club and also advises teachers and other campus staff on any English questions.”Today we’re going to debate whether it is better to live in a village or a town,” she explained. I sat in with the young men who were preparing, and keen to discuss their point of view. “What do you think? Who is right?” they asked me. “It depends on who is more persuasive,” I told them.
Shelagh motioned to two students peeking curiously through the door.
“Come meet my girls,” she said with a big smile. Two young women shyly came into the room. “What do you talk about in the club?” I asked. Shelagh explained they pick different subjects each week and she directs the conversation. The upcoming discussion was going to be on what age to get married. I asked the girls their opinion and they both agreed 20 was a good age.
David was newly arrived and will be taking over from Shelagh when she leaves at the end of the year. “I really want to make sure all Shelagh’s work is sustained and that what she’s created can be continued into the future,” he said. David, from the north of England originally, explained he had volunteered with VSO in Eritrea for four years, but since VSO wasn’t sending volunteers there any more due to security, he had decided to go to Ethiopia, next door.