The Hailemariam & Roman Foundation (HRF) has been providing school meals program (SMP) in 5 public primary schools in South Omo Zone-Hamer & Bena Tsemay Woredas, and Turmi City Administration with the financial support received from China Foundation for Rural Development (CFRD) and Lingshan Charitable Foundation, since 2020/21. In light of this, the HRF held a consultative session in Dimeka and Key Afer Towns from July 6–8, 2023, in coordination with the local administration, to review the project’s progress. The discussion forum was attended by 160 stakeholders, including school principals, teachers, students, parents, cook mothers, and senior leaders from South Omo Zone, Turmi City Administration, Hamer, and Bena Tsemay Woredas.

The chief administrators of the Woredas stated in their opening remarks that the HRF has been developing and implementing a School Meal Program (SMP) at primary schools for the past two years as well as a project focused on increasing the educational participation and effectiveness of girls in secondary schools. They further expressed appreciation for the HRF, pointing out that the grants are making real changes in the teaching and learning process.

The forum featured a thorough report on the progress of SMP from the chiefs of the education departments for Hamer and Bena Tsemay Woredas as well as Turmi City Administration. According to their report, following the project’s introduction in the schools in October 2021, there has been a spike in the number of newly registered students, students have started actively attending their classes, and student results have improved. The report additionally revealed that there has been a significant decrease in lateness, absences, and dropout rates, and that job opportunities have been created for female parents who had a low standard of living. For instance, absenteeism dropped from 11% to 3%, dropout rates declined from 7% to 1.7%, and student achievement rose by 10% at Turmi Primary School.

Participants’ opinions and inquiries about the report were brought up in the forum and addressed. During the event, students who achieved high scores in the academic year 2022–2023 were recognized and given prizes. The participants acknowledged that this would inspire and create a lot of excitement among students, contributing to most remarkable accomplishments.

While concluding the forum, H.E. Roman Tesfaye, the Former First Lady of Ethiopia and CEO of the HRF stated that the developments in the educational sector realized as a result of the Foundation’s support over the past two years in these pastoral and semi-pastoral areas are commendable. She also underlined that, despite improvements in student performance, attaining the required standard demands the active involvement of all stakeholders.

In her message to the participating students, H.E. Roman said, “Understanding that time is a precious resource that cannot be substituted by anything, you should spend every second of your life on something valuable and guide your future path in a fruitful journey.” Her Excellency added that in order to secure the longevity of SMP in the areas, the government and other partners ought to collaborate jointly. Finally, she expressed her gratitude to the government bodies, teachers, parents, education sector stakeholders, and donor organizations who are contributing to the success of the program.


Hailemariam & Roman Foundation

July 2023; South Omo Zone




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