The campaigns to undermine Eritrea’s economic, social and political developments over the last 10 years have taken many forms. There seem to be more articles and books published about Eritrea today, than in the entire 100 year history of Eritrea. Today, the United Nations, the African Union, self serving “human rights” and “NGOs”, some western nations and the press in their employ, who had remained conspicuously silent during the Eritrean peoples bitter 30-year struggle for independence, and who had suppressed any information about the horrific crimes being committed against the people of Eritrea by successive Ethiopian regimes, are falling all over each other to produce a series of negative reports on Eritrea. What gives?
Every single budding Eritrean institution has been targeted for attack and ridicule, and the education sector in Eritrea was not spared. From the Government’s policies on education, to the curriculum, every aspect of the education sector was undermined and severely criticized. First we were told that the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was “anti-intellectuals”, and then we were told that the EPLF and now the Government of Eritrea were “afraid of intellectuals”, and then we were told that they were incapable (not qualified) of producing an education policy for Eritrea etc. etc. Some western “experts” and “researchers” went further and wrote about the “militarization of education in Eritrea”…interesting concept coming from the very descendents of those who introduced “militarism” in order to pillage and plunder Africa since the colonial era…
But the western “researchers” are not the only ones stumbling over each other to malign Eritrea’s development policies, especially the education sector. There are some self-professed intellectuals who have suggested that “freedom fighters” or “rebels” are incapable of governance-let alone institute viable educational policies in the country. These self-serving individuals forget that the education and lessons learned during the 30 year struggle is not only immeasurable and multi-disciplined, it is also not very easily acquired through conventional schooling.
By the way, the attention on Eritrea’s education system should not be mistaken for genuine interest in the well- being of the Eritrean people… it is not. With so many distortions and misrepresentations, the incessant production of “analysis”, “papers”, “reports’, “studies” etc. etc. can only be part of a well-financed and coordinated campaign to undermine the role of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in that 30 year struggle, re-write Eritrea’s history, and conclude once again, as they did back then, that an independent Eritrea is not economically, socially and politically viable…
Back then, despite the blackout on any reports on Eritrea, there were many Eritreans and non-Eritreans that have visited Eritrea and documented the EPLF’s efforts to provide education in areas under its control. They have attested to the EPLF’s determination to provide education under difficult and dangerous situations, against all odds, not just for Eritreans in Eritrea, but also for Eritrean refugees living in neighboring Sudan. It should be recalled that in addition to establishing over 125 primary schools in Eritrea, the EPLF also established over 10 primary schools in the Sudan. The EPLF not only provided food and shelter for Ethiopian prisoners of war, it also endeavored to teach them how to read and write. It is also credited with laying the groundwork for new and innovative approaches to literacy instruction in several of the national languages of Eritrea.
Mother tongue instruction in Eritrea is one area of education that has received a lot of positive attention. Nadine Dutcher (Center for Applied Linguistics Washington, DC) in a 2003 paper “Promise and perils of mother tongue education”, wrote:
“…Before independence most Eritreans had decided, for both political and educational reasons, to use local languages for schooling. By 2002 the full national curriculum for elementary had been issued in eight of the nine Eritrean languages…The promise of mother tongue education is there. Eritrea is a country with a strong political will to fully educate its citizens. The country is determined to provide initial education in a language children will understand and then to add a second language for wider communication…The Eritrea slogan then and now is ‘Unity through Diversity’…”
As has been noted by many educators, the Chinese, Japanese and Indian economies grew largely because they were able to educate their youth using their own languages. Whilst Africans are fighting to preserve their languages, there are some that would rather they didn’t.
Allow me to share this very interesting excerpt from British Council’s annual report of 1983-84 which explains why English language instruction is being advanced over mother tongue instruction and why mother tongue instruction has not received the support it needs, despite the evidence that show it to be the key to accelerating Africa’s development. This is what the report said:
“…Of course we do not have the power we once had to impose our will but Britain’s influence endures, out of all proportion to her economic and military resources. This is partly because the English language is the lingua franca of science, technology, and commerce; the demand for it is insatiable and we respond either through the education systems of “host” countries or, when the market can stand it, on a commercial basis. Our language is our greatest asset, greater than North Sea Oil, and the supply is inexhaustible; furthermore, while we do not have a monopoly, our particular brand remains highly sought after. I am glad to say that those who guide the fortunes of this country share my conviction in the need to invest in, and exploit to the full, this invisible, God-given asset…”