The study has given me more insight into why I believe what I believe.

Welcome to the Evangelical Theological College of Addis Ababa. The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others’ (2 Timothy 2:2).

When you look at the site of the Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this is the first thing you see. And what you have heard of me under many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who are able to teach others also.’ It is striking that this text, from which we as NET Foundation derive our mission, also expresses the mission of the ETC in Addis Ababa.

Online studying

The ETC is one of the many partner schools that use the online platform itslearning for their online programme. It offers a full Bachelor of Theology. The online programme runs alongside the physical programme and is intended for outstanding students or students with top positions in, for example, the government. In total, there are 30 online students. Now, in coronation time, the online programme is also open to 200 students from the regular programme, so that they can still follow their classes.

Jacob Karels, NET’s partner schools coordinator, spoke with Ruhama Gezahagn, coordinator of the online programme at the ETC, and two students, Moshe and Athman, about their choice of online education over physical education and their experiences with itslearning and any problems they encounter.

In my own time

Moshe, a pastor in a local church and busy with all kinds of things concerning the church, is pleased with the possibilities of online study. You can log in to the online programme in your own time. Moreover, although there are certainly advantages, face-to-face education is quite time-consuming. In class situations, all sorts of discussions often develop which, however valuable they may be, do not always add up. Being able to study at times that suit me and at my own pace is a clear added value of online education. The study has given me more insight into why I believe what I believe. I have started to see more lines and connections. I can now serve my Bible study groups, which I lead, better.

Athman also has his own congregation, where he serves as pastor. For him, being able to plan his own time is also a big advantage of studying online. ‘I can study when I want and where I want.’ The study helps him to learn what the Bible says and to pass that on to other people. I learn how to serve myself and others by explaining the Bible in today’s context. There are many schools in Ethiopia, but not everywhere a biblical sound is heard. ‘The study helps to be more ‘fruitful’.’

Our crazy life

Both acknowledge that studying online is ‘lonely’. Face to face you can learn from others. This possibility also exists via the online platform through the forums. However, it rarely leads to lively discussions. Because students from different parts of the world join in, it is difficult to discuss common issues. Everyone brings their own contextual baggage.

According to the students, there are not many problems with the online platform. The advantages of studying online clearly outweigh the disadvantages. Moshe: ‘Well, if there are any problems at all, they are more down to us. Our schedules are full. Studying comes on top of our daily activities. It is our crazy life. Studying online remains a real adventure amidst all that demands attention.

Despite the fact that ‘the crazy life’ demands a lot from the students, the ETC also values meeting others. Ruhama: ‘Besides the study, we also focus on spiritual formation. We do this through Bible studies and prayer meetings, among other things. Ruhama emphasises the importance of this training work. There are many churches, but only 10% of the pastors have had a proper training.