We believe God has been doing something wonderful among us in the field for the last few years through the organic growth of community, which has become significant as we continue to come alongside the schools we work with. As Edify has seen this growth in Christian School Owners’ Fellowships (CSOFs), we feel it is important to further explain these fellowships, how they formed and why they have been so meaningful to the work of Edify.
How the CSOFs started, a story from Ethiopia:
“Every school operated in isolation and felt lonely, weak and vulnerable in the battle.” – Haimi Walter, School Entrepreneur and Chair of Christian School Owners’ Fellowship
When Edify arrived in June 2013 for a feasibility study, the general state of Christ-centered schools in Ethiopia was very poor. The country’s education system was rooted in decades of communist influence. The 1970s and 1980s were dark times, during which the communist government banned evangelical churches and private schools, forcing believers to go underground.
In 1991, a ray of hope emerged when the evangelical church ban was removed and private schools became legal to operate. However, education was made secular by law, and all schools were prohibited from offering religious education during school hours. Land was scarce and expensive, forcing Christian schools to operate in rented residential buildings often not suitable for educational purposes. Sustainability proved difficult due to frequent termination of contracts by landlords.
Because of this challenging climate, the schools operated in isolation and saw one another as competitors. This environment along with legal restrictions took its heavy toll; all private schools struggled and some had to close their doors. Edify’s entry into Ethiopia was a catalyst to the encouragement and growth of Christ-centered education.
Things began to change when Edify organized a round table discussion with 40 school owners, each from different independent Christian schools in and around Addis Ababa. Unknowingly, this was the first time a group of school owners that size had come together in Ethiopia. The meeting was profound and groundbreaking. Collectively they realized they were not alone in the immense challenges they faced every day and there were others with the same mission: to lead a school that was glorifying God and raising up the next God-fearing generation.
Soon after that round table meeting, the CSOF was formed and began to meet regularly to connect, pray and talk about the challenges and successes they faced. Currently, there are 200 schools involved in 6 fellowships in 6 cities. These Fellowships have been instrumental in forming a flourishing learning community and growing the network of Edify partner schools.
Beyond Ethiopia, there are CSOFs that have been formed in Ghana, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, and in one of our newest countries of Sierra Leone, also facing opposition and hardship, five fellowships in three local municipalities of the capital have already formed, uniting groups of schools. In the other countries we work in, the potential of similar fellowships forming is being explored.
Why are these Fellowships so important to Edify’s mission?
The CSOFs are vital to the mission of Edify because there is direct ownership by the school owners, they are not run by Edify. There is so much creativity, wisdom and capacity building resources that exist in the schools and because of the community created by CSOFs, they are consistently growing and learning from one another. Moreover, the School owners share common challenges and they are supported by each other in the midst of them. Through this learning community, Edify discovers more about the needs of these schools so that we can serve them better and further leverage our mission to improve and expand Christ-centered education globally.
Why is it important that these Fellowships operate separate of Edify?
Edify can offer crucial support to address many needs of the schools through our training, loan, and technology programs. However, we do not claim to solve all of the schools’ problems and meet all of their needs. The CSOFs can offer support to one another beyond the resources of Edify, such as teacher recruitment, engaging in advocacy work and impacting the policy of education within their countries. It is encouraging to know that the CSOFs are sustainable and will continue to meet independent of Edify.
How do we see these Fellowships growing in the coming years?
We believe that the CSOFs will continue to grow to include more schools every year and that more will be formed as a result. These Fellowships are at the forefront of transforming their nations by standing together to strengthen Christ-centered education.
Thank you for partnering with us as we walk alongside these amazing schools who are changing the lives of children in their communities.
Want to find out other ways to get involved, visit, https://www.edify.org/get-involved/