Ethiopia: Indigenous Wisdom & Culture

Fulbright Hays Curriculum Development Project

Summer 2017 (Tentative Dates: July 10-August 10)

Application deadline Wednesday, February 15, for priority consideration


The purpose of this project is to strengthen the teaching of African(a) Studies in US schools and educational organizations. American and Ethiopian educators, working in intercultural teams, will investigate and document the folklife of the region in order to build engaging multi-media curriculum units.  By using folklife as a lens, we will be able to take a holistic look at learning across generations and places, participating in and observing what people believe, know, make, say, and create.  Folklife encompasses dance, music, storytelling, ethnobotany, sciences, architecture, language, rituals, graffiti, farming, weaving, cuisine, material culture, and more.  It can be taught in formal schools as well as understood through traditional, every day practices in the home and larger community.  Folklife thrives on the local, interpersonal level, but it also spills over into popular culture, and into the global village’s exchange of goods and practices. Folklife is the dynamic embodiment of indigenous wisdom and culture. For a short set of definitions of folklife, we recommend: Is Folklore. 

Our weeks together will be spent in a wide array of activities, from fieldsite visits to hands-on practice to classroom exercises. Participants will hone their ethnographic research abilities, investigatory skills and listening practices that can transfer over to many academic domains and diverse pedagogies.  Team members will have Amharic language class daily so that they can dive deeper into the cultural experiences and talk with the local people while in Ethiopia. 

Several trips are planned across Ethiopia to enhance their education in the na­tion including trips to Addis Ababa, the capital, where they will visit the home of the African Union as well as visit several museums. Including one that houses the oldest human re­mains in the world, “Lucy.” Additionally, participants will be able to experience one of the largest markets in all of Af­rica, and visit Arba Minch where they may see zebras and crocodiles in the wild. 


The tour will run for a total of 4 and a half weeks from July 10-August 10, 2017.

The tour will be preceded by 3 preparatory workshops conducted by the University of Pittsburgh where partic­ipants will be acquainted with the project leaders and begin learning about the cul­ture in Ethiopia and brain­storming their curriculum projects. There will also be a Curriculum Finishing Work­shop after the tour in Ethio­pia to finish up last touches to the curriculum units. All participants will also be required to share their cur­riculum projects at the local and state levels through conferences and workshops in the coming year. 



Most costs including airfare, local travel, hotel rooms, meals, and even bringing home cultural artifacts for your classroom will be cov­ered under the Fulbright Hays grant from the U.S. De­partment of Education. Each participant will only pay a modest fee of $995 to off­set domestic expenses and other charges not covered by the federal grant. Partic­ipants will also be responsi­ble for the cost of securing their necessary passports and innoculations. 



Following the tour and comple­tion of the curriculum proj­ect Act 48 credit will be available. With some additional scholarly work, university-level credit for undergraduates and graduates may also be available on an individualized basis, depending on the participant's home program of study. Applicants should share their initial goals for academic credit in their essay. 



Ethiopia is rich in diverse historical, cultural and nat­ural beauty. The country lies at the heart of the horn of Africa, and, straddles the Great Rift Valley. Ethiopia boasts a unique historical legacy which includes ev­idence of the oldest trac­es of humanity along with ancient civilizations—The Queen of Sheba was from Ethiopia. Ethiopia avoided Western colonization, and has maintained their heritage. Today, Ethiopia is home to over 80 different ethnic and language groups.


Orthodox Christianity dates to the third century and was associated with the Ethiopi­an monarchy for more than 1,500 years. Magnificent stone churches and medie­val castles bear testament to that legacy. Islam ar­rived in the region during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohamed in the 7th century. An ancient group of Jews lived in Ethiopia, though most have immigrated to Israel in the last decades. Ethiopia is the spiritual homeland of the Rastafarian movement; whose adherents believe Ethiopia is Zion.


Ethiopia is known the world over for its wonderful cui­sine. Including such dishes as injera which is typically served with a spicy stew, that often includes beef, lamb, vegetables and vari­ous types of legumes, such as lentils. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia and is incorporated into many cul­tural ceremonies and rites of passage.


The capital, Addis Ababa, is headquarters for many international organizations including the African Union. Politically, Ethiopia is home to a burgeoning civil society, and has helped to shape the political landscape of the continent.



During the course of this program, teachers will have the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the Wolaita people, who mostly occupy the Southern region of Ethiopia.


Wolaita is the name of the ethnic group and its former Kingdom. The people of Wolaita had their own king­dom and monarchy for hun­dreds of years. The Wolaita language is an Omotic lan­guage spoken in many parts of Southern Ethiopia. Wolai­ta people play a significant role in the politics and econ­omy of Ethiopia.


The majority of Wolaitas are Christians with a majority of Protestant followers. Wolai­ta music plays an important role in national entertain­ment in Ethiopia. The dis­tinctive and up-beat Wolaita melodies have influenced several styles as it continues to shape the identity of Ethi­opian musical diversity.



  • An individual is eligible to participate in a GPA project if she/he is:
    • A citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States; and
    • Currently employed full-time in a United States school system, institution of higher education, local education agency or state education agency, or an educational non-profit organization(not applicable to students);

And at least one of the following:

  • A teacher in an elementary or secondary school (please see note below);
  • A faculty member who teaches modern foreign languages or area studies;
  • An experienced education administrator responsible for planning, conducting, or supervising programs in modern foreign languages or area studies at the elementary, secondary, or postsecondary levels;
  • A graduate student or junior or senior in an institution of higher education, who is a prospective teacher in the areas of social sciences, humanities and foreign languages. The student should meet the provisions set by his or her local and state education agencies. 

 (Note: All GPA participants must be educators or students who fulfill the criteria above and the selection criteria set by their respective projects and are currently teaching and/or studying in the fields of humanities, social sciences, foreign languages, and/or area studies. Area studies is defined as a program of comprehensive study of the aspects of a society or societies including the study of their geography, history, culture, economy, politics, international relations, or languages. If an educator or student is working in a variety of subject areas, she/he must spend the majority of her/his time working with eligible subjects.)


The School of Education and the African Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh are supporting this Ethiopian Curriculum Development Project through the Fulbright Hays Program, which is sponsored by the US Department of Education. We also wish to thank Wolaita Sodo University for hosting us while in Ethiopia. 

Apply Here



Anna-Maria Karnes