Who were they? What have they done? And where are they now?

May 5, 2012

Both theological and secular education systems in Ethiopia have a very rich history.

The long history of the theological educational establishment in Ethiopia is evident in the teachings of the Gada system and Qallu institution as well as in the titles that range from Dabtara to Kinelik. To the extent that there might be any epistemological link between kinelik and knouleche, kinelik may be a root word for knowledge, which would suggest the longevity of this educational establishment.

The secular educational establishment in Ethiopia was pioneered by Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia and advanced and enriched by Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, after continuous contacts with the products of European enlightenment. Emperor Menelik II pioneered the establishment of elementary education system and Emperor Haile Selassie I took it the next level of advancing higher education in Ethiopia.

One of the mechanisms that Emperor Haile Selassie I devised to advance higher education in Ethiopia was to give various awards to some of the best students throughout the country.

How much bearings his initiatives have had, apart from brining about a group of students that helped bring down his monarchy, have not been widely made public. We only hear anecdotes about the presence and accomplishments of individuals who received awards from the hands of Emperor Haile Selassie, such as the late Laureate Tsegaye Ghebremedhin, who wrote the African Union anthem.

The latest Ethiopian to come on the spotlight as one of the awardees of Emperor Haile Selassie I is Dr. Haile Debas, who recently received the University of California at San Francisco’s highest honor for his contributions to advance health worldwide, among others. According to published reprots, Dr. Haile Debas is a UCSF’s chancellor emeritus, dean emeritus of the school of Medicine, Maurice Galante distinguished professor of surgery, founding executive director of Global Health Sciences, and director of the University of California Global Health Institute. This is quite a track record of accomplishment from childhood of excellence in learning global leadership in health sciences.

This type of stories also call for taking a stock of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s venture and investment in higher education and the accomplishments of Ethiopia’s brightest students. So, we might ask who were these bright students, what they have done, where they are today, and about the history of educational rewards Emperor Haile Selassie I put in place as a mechanism to advance secular education in Ethiopia.

We kindly request our readers to send us insightful stories that give answers to some or all of these questions so that we can bring them to the public and today’s Ethiopian students for insightful thoughts and inspirations. Please send stories to the editor.

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