In 2011, the Knesset Research and Information Center published disheartening results about the failure of Ethiopian Israelis to find their place in higher education. Dozens of new programs were launched in response. Each is outstanding in its own right, helping Ethiopian students during their preparatory programs and degree studies in colleges and universities. But the value of these projects is limited, because hundreds of young Ethiopian Israelis do not meet the admission requirements of the pre-academic preparatory programs. Moreover, many of them are not exposed to information about the existing programs and do not understand the monumental importance of an academic degree for entering the middle class and finding a job with prospects for advancement.
The Second Chance Project believes that it is possible to solve this problem. It has one goal: to help young Ethiopian Israeli women satisfy the entrance criteria of the pre-academic preparatory programs and colleges. The program seeks out young women of the Ethiopian community who have a partial matriculation certificate and matches them with National Service jobs in the fields of education or healthcare, which they perform in the mornings. They spend their afternoons and evenings in English, mathematics, and psychometric courses (a total of 16 classroom hours a week), so that they will be able to take the matriculation exams as external students. In addition, the women are counseled by program staff and are exposed to a broad range of occupational possibilities, such as bookkeeping, preschool education, associate engineering, and nursing.
The program involves many challenges for the young women. Many of them, coming from families that live in abject poverty, face a great temptation to drop out of their National Service and study programs and take odd jobs. Their sense of self-efficacy also tends to be low and easily undermined. This is why we added a pilot course in women’s empowerment this year, to help them develop their resilience and future-oriented thinking. We hope to see our graduates at the forefront of the developing Ethiopian leadership. Today we are gratified to see that many graduates are indeed breaking new ground in their adult life, both for themselves and for other Ethiopian young women, while staying in contact with us.
The program took its first steps back in 1997. Today, guidance counselors and class teachers recognize it as a preferred option for young women who show potential that has not been realized in their high-school years. We run three centers—in Jerusalem, Ramat Gan, and Petah Tiqva—with a capacity of up to 100 women a year.
We believe that this is a revolutionary project. We recruit young women from immigrant families who lack financial backing and social mobility. Working together, we are breaking down the boundaries and developing a new generation of educated female leaders for the Ethiopian community.