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At the beginning of his first semester teaching at Ambo University in Ethiopia, English Language Fellow Matthew Jellick noticed a discrepancy in the number of female and male students in his English classes and within the English Department as a whole. In a class of 40 students, only five were women, and in a department of 42 lecturers, only two were women.

To address this discrepancy, Jellick began hosting a freshman women’s English seminar. “If women are to play an equal role in employment figures beyond their formal educational training, then it reasons they should be given credence within an academic setting,” Jellick said.

Jellick encouraged his female students to enroll and to invite their female friends to enroll in this seminar, too. All of his students are English majors, but he hoped to reach out to female students who study other disciplines and who wouldn’t otherwise have had access to his classes. The seminar classes, which are informal and open-conversation style, typically see 20-40 female students in attendance, which is a much higher number than in his formal English classes.

During the seminar, Jellick and his students meet for two hours to discuss various topics, including gender roles within the Ethiopian educational system. The seminar stresses privacy and confidentiality so that participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. “One of my goals for the future is to expand the class to include Year 2 and 3 students, and likewise, to take a select few on a trip to the Embassy in Addis as a means of encouragement and motivation for their future ambitions. Simply demonstrating a genuine interest in their important roles both as students and members of society goes a long way in promoting confidence,” Jellick said.

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