U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the All-Africa English Language Fellows Conference
Monday, February 29, 2016
The Capitol Hotel, Addis Ababa
U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
(As prepared for delivery)
I am delighted to be here to welcome you all to Addis Ababa for the mid-year African English Language Fellows conference. In many ways choosing Addis was a fitting choice because this country’s commitment to expanding access to education for all it citizen’s has been nothing short of remarkable.
I am happy we are able to host this conference because the English Language Fellows Program supports one of the United State government’s key policy pillars in Africa, which is to “spur broad-based economic growth and promote economic development.” Ethiopia – like the rest of Africa – has a huge youth bulge and education is a key factor in paving the way for a better future. Indeed, within that context, nurturing a young workforce that is competent in English is no longer a luxury in today’s competitive world as English is clearly the closest thing we have to a world lingua franca.
Let me tell you I am a big fan of the English Language Fellow, or ELF program as it is affectionately known. The program is distinguished, in part, because of its ability to bring highly qualified U.S. educators, specialized in the fields of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) for 10-month-long fellowships at strategically chosen academic institutions. This is an important partnership that is greatly appreciated by host countries around the world, and especially here in Africa.
But beyond the academic importance of what you do, you can not underestimate the equally important cultural impact that you as Fellows have by fostering mutual understanding. We call that “people-to-people diplomacy,” and you are among our most important and frontline public diplomacy ambassadors. You may be the only Americans that many of your colleagues ever get a chance to meet in person, let alone work with side by side. So what you do as well as how you do it makes a big impact.
As you know this program, like any good cultural exchange program, is a two-way exchange. I am sure that during this three- day conference you will be swapping not only best practices and technical strategies, but you will be sharing real-life experiences about how you have been inspired by your host country counterparts as well as ways that you also have been able to make a difference.
I know that we have been fortunate to host English Language Fellows in Ethiopia for almost ten years now, a time that has coincided with a period of tremendous growth in higher education in Ethiopia.
And I am not reluctant to say, with all due respect to everyone from across Africa, that we have two of the best Fellows right here in Matthew Jellick and Hannah Murphy. They are both on their second year in Ethiopia and have been an incredibly important part of our team, not only in their impact on teaching, but their contributions to our Access English programs and their incredible outreach in their communities, be it working with girls, using youth sports as an international language, or facilitating book donations! Thank you Matt and Hannah! You two are real stars!
For all of you here, and I am sure you are all as equally impressive as Matthew and Hannah! On the behalf of Chiefs of Mission around Africa, I want to thank all of you on behalf of the United States Government for your hard work and tremendous dedication. I can only hope that we find a way to expand this program to include more Fellows here in Africa.
I would also like to take a moment to thank extend my thanks to my colleagues in the Public Affairs Section, to the Regional English Language Officer Scott Chiverton, to the staff of the Regional English Language offices in Washington and Tanzania, and to all our invited guests from Ethiopia who have helped make this conference happen.
I would like to wish you a successful conference over the next few days and I hope that you take back pleasant memories of this conference and of this dynamic country. As we say here in Ethiopia, ameseginalehu.