Gender and Regional Disparities in Opportunities to Higher Education in Ethiopia: Challenges for the Promotion of Social Justice


  • Habtamu Wondimu Associate Professor, Psychology Department


Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic, traditional and one of the least developed countries in the world. The participation rate in early childhood education was 2.0%; in primary and secondary education was 64.4% and 19.3%,respectively in 2002/03 (MOE, 2003). The participation rate in higher education is about 1%. Except in the KG’s, the participation rate of girls is lower than boys at all education levels. It was 25.2% in higher education enrollment and 16.3% among 2002/03 graduates. Primary and secondary enrollment ratios for girls are 13.8% and 5.1% respectively in Afar Region; the ratios are 15.1% and 3.3% respectively in Somali Region. While the primary participation rate for Addis Ababa, Harari and Gambella are about 100%, the Secondary enrollment ratios are above 50% for Addis Ababa, Harar and Dire Dawa. According to MOE statistics, the number of ratio of students who sat for and scored above 2.6% in the EGSECE min 2003 are significantly higher in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Tigray regions than many others (e.g, Afar, Somali). When figures of the regional population, total enrollments students who sat for the 10th and 12th national examinations, and students who were admitted to higher education institutions are compared, large disparities exist between regions and genders. The development of an inclusive and democratic society requires that equality of opportunity needs to exist and the disadvantaged social groups need some support to catch up with the others. Exclusion, particularly those of regions or ethnic groups, tends to be a threat to democracy and national integration in the long run. Furthermore, higher education is highly related to better standard of living and easier participation in societal matters. Hence, the regions in the peripheries and the females need much better access to higher education. The Ethiopian constitution and various policies address issues of affirmative action, support to disadvantaged and diverse groups, and notions of equality. The provisions are not put into practice and perhaps more detailed policies, guidelines and interventions might be in order to improve the situation in higher education admission and retention.