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Reducing ethnic prejudice in Ethiopia through a host family program

Progress stage
Jun 2024 to Feb 2027
  • Ethiopia
  • Democracy and Governance
  • Jun 2024 to Feb 2027

The University of Gondar is conducting a pilot trial of the Host Family Program, which aims to foster cohesion between non-Amhara students and Amhara families living near the campus. A randomized evaluation will assess the program’s potential to reducing prejudice and preventing conflict.

Project deployed by:

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In recent years, Ethiopia has been plagued by numerous internal conflicts. Ethnic bias, primarily stemming from historical tensions between ethnic groups (Abbink, 2012), played a part in the recent war between the federal government and the regional government of Tigray, and is associated with ongoing conflicts in other regions such as Amhara and Oromia (Teshome, 2021). These events have led to fear, resentment and tension being directed towards certain ethnic groups (Admassu 2019, EIP 2021).

In this context, every year, the Ministry of Education randomly assigns students to universities in different geographical regions across the country as part of the admission process for higher education. As a result, nearly 70% of students are assigned to institutions outside of their home region, and live on campus at their new university. A number of researchers have taken an interest in interethnic cohabitation on campuses, and have shown that Ethiopian students tend to stick together according to ethnicity and avoid mixing with other groups (Ashine, 2019; Adamu, 2019; Adamu, 2023), which perpetuates the stigma around certain ethnicities and fuels ingrained prejudices.


To promote better understanding between ethnic groups, the University of Gondar has established the Host Family Program in collaboration with the Gondar City Administration, where, on the weekends, Amhara families living near the campus host non-Amhara students from the university.

This program aims to foster ties between students and families of different ethnicities, promote dialogue, and help combat prejudice in the country, via

  • Channel 1: Direct interaction – students and host families build relationships and form emotional bonds (Pettigrew and Tropp, 2008) through their discussions about culture, lifestyle, thus breaking down the prejudices previously held towards each other.
  • Channel 2: Family interaction – students share their (positive) experiences with their family members, who then witness these positive interactions when visiting their children.
  • Channel 3: Community interaction – students and their families can now share their positive experiences with other people in their community, which could result in a long-term reduction in interethnic bias.

While the University has implemented the host-family program (“the Gondar covenant family project”) in 2018-2019, it was later suspended due to COVID-19. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the program facilitated cultural exchange and promoted continued contact, but the HFP has not yet been formally and scientifically piloted in an experimental framework, and its effects are not yet systematically known, which is the purpose of this pilot trial.

Expected results

By helping to reduce bias, this project aims to limit ethnic conflicts via three mechanisms:

  1. Conflict prevention: the student, family and their respective communities will be more open to dialogue and peaceful resolution in the event of ethnic conflict.
  2. Conflict resolution: individuals who have been directly or indirectly affected by the program will be better equipped to resolve conflicts when they arise, thus preventing such conflicts from occurring.
  3. Political leadership and activism: in the long term, the project team hopes that the program will help mitigate conflict across the entire country, as students have a higher chance of becoming decision-makers, government members or public officials, putting them in a position to drive policy based on tolerance and peaceful coexistence between ethnic groups.
Vue en Ethiopie
University of Gondar

University of Gondar

Founded in 1954, as medical training institution, the University of Gondar is one of the oldest higher education institutions in Ethiopia. The university now aims to redesign the host family program, and manage and implement an RCT on the program in collaboration with the Gondar city administration, the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), the Ministry of Education, the Amhara Regional Peace and Security Bureau, and the Ministry of Planning and Development (MoPD).


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