CIES, ADEA announce Ethiopian researcher as winner of the inaugural African Inclusive Literacy Research Award in memory of Rebecca H. Rhodes

The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) are pleased to name Zelalem Wondimu as the recipient of the inaugural African Inclusive Literacy Research Award (AILR). This selection is the outcome of a rigorous process that reviewed several strong proposals from where the winner was selected. Wondimu’s proposal, “Internally Displaced Children with Disabilities in Post-Conflict Pre-Schools of Ethiopia: Twin Challenges”, will investigate the learning plight of displaced children and enrich available data on their needs and circumstances.

Mr. Wondimu is the Founder and Executive Director of ‘About All Children-Africa’ and also a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Special Needs and Inclusive Education, College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Addis Ababa University. His proposal demonstrated a strong focus on special education and will help to address the lack of empirical evidence on the multiple challenges faced by internally displaced children living with disabilities in pre-primary school settings in Ethiopia. The study will also shed light on early literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional skills, providing valuable data to address issues related to marginalization. Mr. Wondimu plans to apply the findings of this study directly into the endeavors of his local nonprofit organization ‘All Children-Africa’, working with these same communities.

According to Jennifer Swift Morgan, the Coordinator of the AILR award, 

‘We commend Mr. Wondimu for his dedication in advancing inclusive literacy research and addressing the critical challenges faced by vulnerable populations. His research project will have significant implications for government and non-government organizations, scholars, policy makers, and various stakeholders engaged in intersecting marginalization caused by forced displacement and disability.’

Equally, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva says, 

‘Addressing the literacy challenges of internally displaced children and victims of conflict helps us to ensure that we are building an inclusive society. It is one of the ideals Rebecca Rhodes lived for all through her career. I am particularly pleased that this inaugural award to Mr. Wondimu sits right at the heart of the objectives of the fund, especially in the African Union Year of Education.’

While congratulating the recipient, CIES and ADEA expresses its deepest gratitude to other candidates who submitted very strong applications. Both organizations look forward to supporting and showcasing more African research on inclusive literacy with this new annual award. ‘We would like to also thank the founding sponsors of the African Inclusive Literacy Award including, ADEA, Chemonics International, FHI 360, RTI International, and the Basic Education Coalition. We would also like to recognize the award’s other sponsors such as Inclusive Development Partners, Save the Children, and dozens of individual donors who have generously contributed to the award fund. Please join us in congratulating Mr. Wondimu for this outstanding achievement and his coming contributions to our field’ the statement says. 


About the Africa Inclusive Literacy Research Award

This AILR Award was established in memory of Rebecca H. Rhodes, an outspoken champion for inclusive education who died at the end of 2021. Rebecca was one of the brightest lights of the international education development community and a longstanding member of CIES. She was a legend for her intellect, mentorship, humor, and above all, her dedication to our field. She was Team Lead for Reading and Literacy at USAID, and for twenty years prior, designed and ran education projects across Africa. From the researchers, educators, children and families she met and befriended across the continent, Rebecca knew that each child can learn and that every child has the right to learn in order to reach their highest potential – including children with disabilities. Supporting African research into inclusive literacy honors her legacy.

The first round of the award comprises one $5,000 USD prize to be made to a single primary applicant (individual) to help cover expenses for proposed research related to literacy education (i.e., foundational reading skills, and, optionally, writing/written communication skills) for children or youth with disabilities and/or special education needs.

For more about this award and Rebecca H. Rhodes, please visit the CIES website.