Department of Geography, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
The bombed-out school of Addilal in Gheralta, Tigray, Ethiopia. © Mishtir Sabat.
On Tuesday 22 June 2021, the Ethiopian Air Force targeted the market place of Addilal in Tigray’s Gheralta district (north Ethiopia). Fortunately, the bomb missed the market, but it fell on the school compound. There were no students in school, as all schools in Tigray are closed since 2020. Damages to the school buildings were considerable. Up to date, the bombed-out Addilal school stands unused, as a symbol for these three years without schools in Tigray. Here we share a six exclusive photographs of the Addilal school.
The bombardment by the Ethiopian Air Force targeted the Addilal market, but it fell on the school compound. © Mishtir Sabat.
On Monday, January 30, 2023, the Tigray Education Bureau declared that classes have resumed in several parts of the region. The Tigray Education Bureau advised making efforts to re-enroll kids in school. The war has caused more than 80% of Tigray’s educational institutions to be destroyed. In Tigray, pre-primary through grade four now have as their educational goal resolving the children’s psychological trauma.
As part of the effort to combat the COVID pandemic, schools in Tigray, like those throughout Ethiopia, were forced to close in March 2020 and to reopen in December of the same year (Demissew Bizuwork and Zerihun Sewunet 2020).
In Tigray, however, schools did not reopen until this day. Since September 2020, i.e., even before the Tigray War broke out, the Ethiopian government has withheld the Tigray regional state’s budget and teachers have not been paid. And then the war and Tigray blockade (Hurley 2023) came…
Destroyed classroom at Addilal. © Mishtir Sabat.
Desolation at Addilal
The bombed-out school of Addilal stands as a symbol for these three years without schools in Tigray. On Tuesday 22 June 2021, the Ethiopian airforce bombed the Togoga market in Tigray, with dozens of victims (Burke 2021). Less known is that immediately after that, the same airplane moved to another market place at Addilal, some 20 km further to the north, and dropped another bomb.
Fortunately, the bomb missed Addilal’s market, but it fell on the school compound. There were no students in school, as all schools in Tigray are closed since 2020. Damages to the school buildings were considerable. Addilal is a remote place in the Gheralta mountains, without mobile network or internet. However, we have documented this bombardment already in a blog article on 23 June 2021 (Nyssen 2021).
Instead of pupils, some livestock shade themselves in Addilal school. © Mishtir Sabat.
Recent photos of the Addilal school (January 2023), some one and half year after the bombardment, show the extent of the damage. The buildings on the photos and surrounding elements (small buildings, trees, cliffs) allow fitting the photos on Google Earth imagery, shown below.
Satellite imagery of Addilal school in March 2021, before the bombardment. Coordinates: 13.69416 °N, 39.32064 °E. © Google Earth.
Destructions at Addilal school after the June 2021 bombardment by the Ethiopian Air Force. © Mishtir Sabat.
Some details about the Addilal bombardment
- The bombardment occurred on Tuesday, June 22, 2021; Tuesday is market day in Addilal; thousands of people from a wider area (up to 10-15 km away) were in the market.
- It is a weekly market, and in June it is always busy because it is the sowing season and people come to the market to exchange or buy seeds. The bombardment occurred at noon. Markets in Tigray start at 9 AM because people must travel by foot to the town; at noon, the number of people in the market was at its peak.
- No one was hurt in the bombing of Addilal’s market, but the village school was severely damaged.
- Locals believe that the bombardment was done on purpose that day as a reminder of the Derg bombardment of the Hawzen market that occurred on the same date, 33 years earlier (Africa Watch 1990; De Waal 1991).
Bombed-out Addilal school; like all schools in Tigray, Addilal has not seen pupils since more than three years © Mishtir Sabat
Africa Watch (1990) ‘Mengistu has decided to burn us like wood’. Race & Class 32 (2):72-82
Burke J (2021) Scores killed in Ethiopian airstrike on Tigray market. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/24/ethiopian-airstrike-tigray-market,
De Waal A (1991) Evil days: Thirty years of war and famine in Ethiopia, vol 3169. vol 69. Human Rights Watch,
Demissew Bizuwork, Zerihun Sewunet (2020) Schools reopening restores normalcy to children amid lingering COVID-19 risks. Unicef Ethiopia https://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/stories/schools-reopening-restores-normalcy-children-amid-lingering-covid-19-risks,
Hurley D (2023) Crisis in Tigray. Harvard,
Nyssen J (2021) Humanitarian situation in Tigray (22 June 2021). Site dedicated to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray. https://emnetnegash.wordpress.com/2021/06/22/humanitarian-situation-in-tigray-22-june-2021/.