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Making Head Way In Providing Access To Basic Education

Mr. Gebrezghi Dimam
It is an undeniable fact that education is the basis for any kind of development, be it on a personal level, society or at national level. The reality of our world clearly demonstrates that countries where the majority of the people are educated have developed while those with uneducated peoples are still struggling to develop. Hence, the foundation of the Eritrean government’s strategy for economic emancipation lies in cultivating an educated and skilled workforce.

Consequently, owing to the rigorous efforts by the government in the past 19 years, every Eritrean child has access to education starting from elementary education to tertiary level. Every student in Eritrean schools has now the chance to either pursue tertiary education in various fields or attend vocational training in different skills. Such opportunities for the youth have enabled the production of skilled and educated work force. 

On the same note, the government also gives due attention to those members of the society who never had the chance to go to school during the colonial period. The government firmly believes that meaningful development cannot be registered unless the entire or majority of the population learns to at least read and write. To this end the Eritrean government has been committed to eliminating illiteracy since the armed struggle period. According to the head of Adult Education at the Ministry of Education (MoE), Mr. Gebrezghi Dimam, the EPLF campaign against illiteracy began in the 1970s with the education of illiterate members of the Front. “The illiteracy campaign assumed a more structured mode in the 1980s and we began providing basic education training to the general public in the countryside as well as those nationals displaced from their homes as a result of assaults by the enemy,” he added.

Literacy is connected to many pressing social-economic conditions that influence
health, poverty, justice, social status, early childhood development, community engagement and more.  Literacy is much more than reading and writing; it is an essential skill that is the foundation for future learning. It is about people’s ability to participate in every day activities with efficiency.  

Although the effects of illiteracy on a given society can be numerous, the most significant effect is that it works as an inhibitor. That is to say, the more illiterate people there are in a country, the harder it will be for the country to develop. Moreover, Mr. Gebrezghi pointed out that illiteracy also prevents people from making proper use of the social services that are provided for them.

Considering the effect illiteracy can have on the general public, the policy of the MoE in this case is to provide access to basic education for those who have not had the chance to go to school wherever they are. Every Eritrean national, young, old, housewife, farmer …ect,  should at least be able to read and write, so that they can move in pace with the age of information.

The government gives high priority to adult education program. Accordingly, the MoE collaborates with the administrational bodies to conduct illiteracy campaigns for every six months in different regions of the country. Regular teachers or sometimes people who have completed 12th grade studies are hired for such campaigns. The lessons are given in mother tongue, eight of the ethnic languages in the country.  

Mr. Gebrezghi indicated that more than half a million people have benefited from the illiteracy campaign. This has had a great impact on the every day lives of the people. Women in remote parts of the country have been able to note down their expenses and savings. Such campaign has also been instrumental in creating awareness regarding seeking professional medical help as well as proper follow up of medications.

There is always a risk of forgetting or loosing what you have learned. As a remedy for this, small libraries have been opened in different parts of the country, so that people can read books to maintain what they learned. The books in the libraries focus on health, modern farming, prevention mechanisms of different illnesses, history of different people in the world and many others. More efforts are being exerted in finding books in suitable languages and themes that reflect the lives of the readers. Books on fishing for fishermen, on farming for farmers, on maternity and child care for women..etc

Reports from the Ministry of Education indicate that more than 65% of the Eritrean population is literate. This figure is quite remarkable for a country whose education system has been deliberately hindered by colonial forces. Colonial policies had focused on limiting access to education for Eritreans and in the process completely destroyed the education system in the country. People in remote parts of the country had not even seen or heard of teachers or schools let alone attend classes. Following independence the Eritrean government had to revive the system from quite a deplorable state. As a result of continued efforts by the government in the past 19 years, today even the most remote parts of the country have been able to gain access to education.

Speaking about the progress made through the adult education program, Mr. Gebrezghi explained that although commendable achievement has been registered so far, further efforts are required for more gratifying outcomes. ” 35% is still a large number and it has to be tackled. The program will be pushed forward extensively, because such figure of illiteracy rate can entail negative effect to the pace of economic development in the country,” he added.


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