Analysis: Kallamino Special High School: where talent meets excellence

Kallamino Special High school students at the school’s library (left), and the school’s computer lab.

Etenesh Abera

Mekelle/Addis Abeba, March 09/2020 – Lidiya Mesfine, born and raised in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray regional state, speaks proudly about Kallamino Special High School, a boarding school in the same city as her birth place. Lidiya is not the only one; all the students who spoke to Addis Standard share her views and speak with pride. But all of them also know what it means to be a Kallamino student: it is where talent meets excellence; and where success means to give back to the community who continue to sustain the very existence of the boarding school.

“Since I was a fourth grade student my family, my teachers and the community I grew up around encouraged me and prepared me to join Kellamino. I grew up hearing being the Kellamino student was very special,” Lidiya says. When families, teachers and community members spot a talent in young kids, they know they have to nurture and groom these kids to become one of the Kellamino students, where their talents are matched by the level of education the boarding school provides.

Kallamino was first established in 1998 by Tigrai Development Association (TDA) “with a vision of making Tigrai prosperous and free from poverty and backwardness.”  At the center of its vision is reaching out to “high achieving students” and preparing them for a better tomorrow.  

Lidya, who is now a 10th grader, says she joined the boarding school not only for having passed her eighth grade school leaving national exam with distinction, but also for having passed the entrance exam prepared by Kallamino, a testament that the boarding school follows its own strict academic requirements for admission. “Being in Kallamino is not just about the prospect of opportunities or a positive impact for ourselves, our family and the community who raised us. It is also about the impacts on the values we aspire to achieve for ourselves and others around us; the ideals of how we can impact others’ lives” This, according to Lidiya is not limited to the students, it also extends to their teachers and coaches.  “Our teachers also join this school after going through a great competition.” 

More than academic syllabuses  

The management of Kallamino Special High School knows that succeeding in having students fulfill beyond what is expected of them from the school’s academic syllabuses takes following more than the established teaching-learning practice. As such, the boarding school is home to some highly engaging extra-curricular clubs, including literature, debate, civics, as well as science & technology clubs which are available to all students depending on their interests.  

Kallamino Special High school students at the school’s mechanical lab

Wegesh Mulugeta, currently studying at grade 12, is a student who came from Kafta Humera. “There are a lot of things that we learn from each other,” he told Addis Standard. “Such extra-curricular activities and the conversations we have amongst us help us understand that our primary focus should be to find ways to give back and change the community who are sustaining the presence of this school; we are constantly aware of our responsibilities and such levels of consciousness cannot be achieved without these extra-curricular activities that help us see beyond our academic duties,” he says.

Tsegazeab Solomon, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Allenatech Electronic Technologies S.C, an innovative tech startup company based in Mekelle, is proof of that. Tsegazeab was among the second batch of students at Kallamino boarding school. ‘’I was a top student in my school in Adigrat and had a distinctive grade in my eighth grade national exam; I joined Kallamino after passing the entrance exam. Starting from the time I joined it remained a source of pride for me, my family and the community who raised me,” he said from his office. He attributed the work values and discipline he now boasts to run a multi-discipline high-tech company, the values he has for others, the successes he achieved now to his time in Kallamino. Among the high-end tech solutions Allenatech Electronic Technologies S.C, provides today is “building and hosting cloud services, building and managing state of the art data-centers and internet infrastructure and services provision.” On February 27, a delegation led by Raphael Morav, Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, accompanied by Dr Tsega Birhane, Tigray regional state head of Science and Technology Bureau, and other senior officials, visited Allenatech where they discussed about the possibilities of providing Allenatech with professional assistance and uplinks with Israeli software outsourcing companies.

Tsegazeab Solomon is currently a board member of TDA and as such he too is protective of Kallamino’s reputation as a purely academic center of excellence

Up on leaving school, and when opportunities avail themselves, many of Kallamino students join Mekelle Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Tesfahunegn Hailemariam is currently the principal of the school. Asked if the rumors that Kallamino compels its students to join Mekelle Institute of Technology (MIT) only, Dr. Tesfahunegn simply says: ‘’we are collecting excellent students to make them more independent and fit to join any university. As a result of their excellent grades they stand a lot of chances to join any given university. We don’t push them to choose MIT only, or any institute for that matter.” What Kallamino does, instead, is encourage and help its students develop skills, knowledg, and talent through its extra-curricular activities besides “their academic excellence,’’ the students leave the compound armed with all and ready to join universities everywhere, he Addis Standard.

Tsegazeab Solomon is currently a board member of TDA and as such he too is protective of Kallamino’s reputation as a purely academic center of excellence. Responding to accusations that TDA wields a political influence on the school, Tsegazeab responds: “as a former student and current TDA board member I can assure that Kallamino is free from any kind of political influence and interference; most of its founders and members were not even politicians; these are people like Araaya Zerihun, who has done a lot of things to realizing the visions of TDA in giving back to the community,” he said.

Currently 700 students are enrolled in Kallamino; half of them are girls and TDA has continued providing the financial costs of running the boarding school. “Personally I believe the government should support private schools such as this; after all the students belong to the country”, the principal said.

Giving back to where it all began

According to Tsegazeab 50% of Kallamion Alumni members are currently found all over Ethiopia. And many of those who remained in Tigray region are employed as teachers and researches at MIT while others work with different privates state run institutions. At the national level there are many who have joined Ethio telecom, Information Network Security Agency (INSA), different hospitals, and Ethiopian airlines due mainly to their exceptional talents. Those who left Ethiopia include employees of global tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, and Huawei, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “Last year we were happy to learn that Kellamino Alumni members have donated 30 millon ETB, to their school; this is in addition to the knowledge transfer activities all Alumni members continued to contribute as a gesture of giving back to the community,” Tsegazeab said.   

Dr. Tesfahunegn wants to see Kellamino replicated in all parts of the country. “We need such schools of excellence. I know there are initiatives, for example in Bishoftu, to replicate Kellamino, but it’s not enough, we need to have many all over the country. Such schools are not only there to give academic excellence, but to rebuild the personalities of the students.” AS

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