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A Remarkable Challenge for Diaspora:

Leveraging Ethiopia’s TVET Programs for Integrating the Internal Displaced Persons into Their Ancestral Homes


Desta, Asayehgn (Ph.D), Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development and Quantitative Methods


The 1995 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was promulgated with the assumption that the formation of a federal union in Ethiopia would not only enhance the celebration of self-rule and shared-rule, but also rekindle ethnic autonomy, diversity, and inclusion, and serve as a framework for resolving ethnic conflict. Nonetheless, due to the lack of the implementation of effective diversity and inclusion awareness programs that could have encouraged open communication and interpersonal dialogue to build mutual respect, it is heart-breaking to see that currently Ethiopia is embroiled in deep inter-ethnic skirmishes. Put simply, ethnic animosity in Ethiopia has not drastically altered social structures and disrupted livelihoods, but it has destroyed employment opportunities throughout the country. The regions that were predominantly dominated by endogenous (native) ethnic groups are resorting to forcefully chasing away and uprooting the non-native migrants who have lived and intermarried with them for several years. It is sad to see that the non-natives who were involuntarily settled during the Dergue’s development-induced displacement (DID) program or were encouraged by the current regime to undertake productive investment have become victims and are ruthlessly uprooted from their homelands and livelihoods. Given that displacement can be a terrible and wrenching life experience, the triple aims of the study were to review the literature and investigate the impact of displacement on: 1) the life, health, and social well-being of the internally displaced persons (IDP); and 2) the socio-economic, infrastructure, and natural environment of the host communities. Finally, the study briefly explored how the existing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in the Regional State of Tigrai could be appropriately redesigned and funded by the diaspora and other philanthropic agencies to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance the employment or self-employment capacity of the internally displaced persons and successfully integrate and create sustainable economic development to their ancestral homes.


Conclusion and Policy implications

Enshrined in the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution, the formation of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia guaranteed not only the formation of regional self-governments to independently rule themselves but also accentuated the prominence of self-rule, shared-rule, enhanced diversity and conflict resolution.

Due to current administrative obsolescence, lack of dialogue, and effective implementation of diversity and inclusion initiatives, the social structures and the livelihoods of the federal peoples are drastically disrupted.

Feeling daunted by land grab and seeing that the natives of some regions were constantly pushed yonder into the dry peripheral areas, some of the disenchanted endogenous (native) ethnic groups are taking the initiative to organize themselves and have decided to chase away the non-native migrants who have lived and remained intermarried with them for many years. Consequently, the displaced nonnative ethnic groups who were forced out of their homes or habitual residences are now found either squatting, sheltering in, or occupying abandoned church and mosque compounds. In addition, while some have crossed border lines to neighboring countries, the remaining displaced persons have managed to flee and settle down in their respective ancestral homes.

The displaced Tegarus don’t anticipate returning to their places of residence because they feel that they are disfavored. Their homes were demolished, and their physical wealth and livelihoods severely ravaged. Having gone through these traumatic experience, the internally displaced Tegarus are reluctant to return to their domicile places. To balance state sovereignty with the humanitarian core values (United Nations 1998), though ad hoc, the Regional State Government of Tigrai, Ethiopia is in the process of soliciting concerted assistance from Non-Government Organizations, philanthropic organizations, and other volunteers to help the displaced Tegarus settle down within their ancestral homes.

If the displaced people are to be part of the diversified workforce, foster entrepreneurship, and eventually contribute to the leverage of the local economy and sustainably settle down in their ancestral homes, the training centers need to integrate the previous experience of the displaced people. The study proposes that the existing TVET institutions need to be re-oriented and redesigned to systematically incorporate both supply-oriented and demand-driven strategies. Furthermore, assuming that if the professional vocational teachers and trainers are retrained, they are likely to enjoy training the displaced learners, and thereby the learners would be exposed not only to knowledge-based, on-going, on-campus training but also be trained in on-site practical internship (Desta, 2017).

To generate competence-based training, it remains tantamount for the TVET institutions to integrate the previous experience of the displaced people and further integrate it with the theoretical employability knowledge and practical skills and entrepreneurial capacities to which would improve the productivity of the enterprises. In other words, the non-formal “competency-based training” offered to the internally displaced persons needs to be relevant to the labor market, serve the enhancement capabilities, and make the displaced people achieve effective, durable and environmentally-sensitive capabilities necessary to integrate into their ancestral homes (see Axmann, Rhoades, and Nordstrum, 2015).

In simple terms, to pursue sustainable settlement for the displaced persons, it is axiomatic that the now-existing TVET institutions in the regional state of Tigrai have to be revamped to be incubators or serve as catalytic tools both for the displaced persons and regional economic development. That is, the existing TVET curricula need to be redesigned to be dynamic and accommodate the previous knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences of the displaced persons. The existing TVET teachers and trainers have to be retrained and effectively socialized to acquire working pedagogic knowledge that includes new skills and approaches.

Given this framework, the most important policy imperative that could be suggested is that the current curriculum-centered TVET institutions in Tigrai need be redesigned to incorporate the needs of the labor market subject to creating the possibility of career progression and continuation of learning. Consequentially, the output of the reformed TVET would increasingly become a very important pillar to improve livelihoods, achieve self-esteem, and accomplish value-added employment opportunities that would contribute to personal empowerment relevant to all the learners.

Compared to general education programs, financing TVET institutions in Ethiopia is very expensive. As it stands now, the federal government is the sole provider of funds for the TVET institutions. To reform the existing TVET institutions within the regional state of Tigrai calls for a diligent search for an alternative mechanism for financial modality. Underpinning Atchoarena (2009) and Ziderman’s (2016), suggestion, the regional state of Tigrai could diversify the sources of funds for TVET programs by tapping possible funds from enterprises, establish within TVET’s income generation from production or services, and also generate funds from Ethiopian diasporas.

Concerning enterprise financing, Ethiopia’s TVET institutions could get fruitful lessons from the German type of dual training programs used to finance Germany’s newly designed TVET institutions. For example, according to the German Dual Track Model, enterprises provide the initial financing for the training. That is, the learners are required to attend TVET centers for about one-and-a-half days per week, and the rest of the time is devoted to on-the-job training with the apprenticeship supervised by enterprises. To protect the enterprises from facing poaching, the learners are preconditional made to sign agreements that they are going to work for a given number of years and are going to be compensated at lower wages when they become full-time workers.

Additionally, to leverage curriculum reform, the reformed TVET institutions are made to be market-oriented and at the same time generate income and diversify their sources of funds by combining training with production. To bolster training during the learning process, TVET institutions can hire, on a part-time basis, adjunct instructors from the industries to train the learners to produce goods and services that could be sold to the local market. Furthermore, as suggested by Uhder (2017) and Ziderman (2016), to bolster their financial conditions and generate income that could be used to finance the training units, TVET institutions could rent tools and equipment, and provide consulting services to local enterprises.

Though the above funding strategies are viable, the most powerful rallying point of financial fundraising modalities needed for the revitalization of TVET institutions located in the Regional State of Tigrai TVET could emerge by the Tegaru diasporas either by soliciting or raising funds from their communities or philanthropic giving agencies. However, as suggested by Charities Aid Foundation of America (CAF), 2017), before attempting to raise funds, the Tegaru diaspora needs to know in detail “what causes speak to the diaspora” and “who the beneficiaries are.”

Following this innovative theoretical framework, we can propose that the major aim of the fundraising venture to be organized by the Ethiopian Tegarus diaspora needs to be fundamentally revitalizing the TVET institutions in Tigrai. The underlying purpose of the funds raised by the Tegaru diasporas is to rehabilitate and accord employable skills—very vital for resettling the displaced Tegarus who unfortunately are now existing on government handouts and are either temporarily residing with their ancestry families, sheltering in over-crowded urban areas, or residing in peripheral zones. It is to minimize the suffering of the displaced individuals and establish sustainable living conditions that we propose that the existing TVET institutions need to be reformed. Thereby, for the reformation of the existing TVETs, donations from philanthropic giving and contributions from the diaspora community need to be solicited—subject to effective accountability and transparency.

In addition, the governing committee of Tegaru diaspora have to fully realize that they have to abide by the following obligations. They have to: 1) develop a good relationship with the donors by making it clear that donors are entitled to an income tax deduction (under Internal Revenue Code Section 170) for their contributions; 2) make donors confident that their funds will be used for the revitalization of the TVET project that they support; and 3) after a gift is made, make sure that the committee stay connected and are also given progress reports on project and raised resources.

In addition to the suggested fundraising strategies, what is invitingly challenging is designing ways and means of luring the Tegaru diaspores to assert a moral commitment that the diaspores will be returned, at least once a year, to their revered ancestral communities of origin and get involved either to conduct empirical research or learning and sharing knowledge with the community, and if possible, to forge practically oriented TVET teaching methodologies. In tandem with their host communities and other stockholders, it would be remarkable if the Tegaru diasporas could attempt not only to tackle mainstream pedagogical challenges, but also offer professional mentorship, and provide networking opportunities to rekindle their financially supported TVET institutions and their ripple effect on the communities.

If you have the desire to participate in this type of a remarkable challenging project, I would appreciate it if you could contact me using the following address: asayehgn.desta@dominican.edu  



Atchoarena, D. (2009a). The Economics and Financing of TVET. In Maclean and Wilson(eds.). International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work.

Axmann, M. Rhoades, A and Nordstrum, L (2015). “Vocational teachers and trainers in a changing world: the imperative of high-quality teacher training systems.” Employment Policy Department Employment Working Paper, No. 177. International labour Organization.

Charities Aid Foundation of America (November 2017). “Diaspora Philanthropy: An Industry Perspective.” Available at (https://www.cafamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/DPS_Report18_v5.pdf. Retrieved 10 March,2020.

Desta, A. (2017). Re-thinking Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism. BahnhofstraBe: Lambert Academic Publishing.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, IDMC (October 2018). “Thematic Series, The Ripple Effect Economic Impacts of Internal Displacement”. Multidimensional Impacts of Internal Displacement.

Uhder, C. (January 16-22, 2017). “Financing TVET: Diversifying the Funding Sources for TVET.” Report of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training.

United Nations, Commission on Human Rights (1998). The Guiding Principle’s on Internal Displacement. UN Doc. E/CN.4?1998/53/Add.2.

Ziderman, A. (2016). “Funding Mechanisms for Financing Vocational Training: An Analytical Framework.” IZA, Policy Paper, No. 110.