Following substantial investment made by the Government to expand and upgrade the education system, impressive achievements have and are being registered in this domain. Access to school in all levels of education in general and higher level in particular has risen tremendously over the past years. The construction of seven colleges in various parts of the country had opened a new chapter in the country’s educational development. Pursuing degree and diploma level, which had been only accessible to a handful of students in the only University in the country, is now being made available to many citizens. Yet, the journey to further upgrade access to higher education in the country is continuing process. Dr. Tadesse Mehari, the Executive Director of the National Board of the Eritrean Institutions of Higher Education, conducted an interview regarding the advancement of further educational opportunities in the country. Excerpts follow:
Let’s start with the students who participated in this year’s national leaving examination?
Nearly, 21,000 students out of whom 15,000 high school complete students and around 7,000 others took part in the national leaving certificate examination. About 4,700 of these participants were able to get passing mark, of which 2,456 degree and the rest 2,200 would pursue diploma level studies. These students would pursue their academic in these colleges.
What efforts are being carried out to promote the number of participants who score passing mark?
A committee has been established to identify problems encountering these students and come up with better ways of alleviating them. The government is doing its best to provide sufficient school materials, upgrade teachers’ capacity and increase their number, among others. And, I think the efforts undertaken so far are bearing fruitful outcomes, which in turn is making significant contribution in improving academic performance from year to year.
How about the provision of post-graduate programs?
Masters programs have been already commenced in previous years, however, our effort was mainly focused on enhancing the capacity of the colleges in undergraduate programs first. In line with this, we have been sending a number of graduate assistants abroad for masters program currently working in the colleges for 3 to 5 years to Europe, Asia including China, India, Japan, and others over the past two years. Realizing the importance of expanding masters program, we are making relentless efforts to open masters program inside the country. Some of the colleges have already finalized preparations to provide masters programs in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. They would start masters program from next year.
Tell us more about the provision of the post-graduate program inside the country and abroad?
Almost all colleges have equal opportunity with the exception of the Eritrean Institute Technology in Mai Nefhi. Since this college has large number of students and teachers. We are preparing to send 22 graduate assistants to China this year, while seven individuals from each college are preparing to go to Japan. Other nationals would be sent to various universities as well. The masters program inside the country would start with limited number of students in various fields of studies as the expense for a second year course is substantial for field trip, laboratory and etc. Moreover, there is a plan to commence distance learning program for nationals employed in ministries and other organization once the necessary arrangements are made.
Can you brief us regarding the efforts to replace foreign teachers by locals ones?
Our main task currently is to expand advanced educational programs so as to promote manpower capacity first. We are sending nationals abroad in two forms; one which involves full government expenses, as well as a scholarship that requires only partial government expense. As I have previously mentioned earlier some of the graduate assistants would learn in the local colleges when the final preparations are completed. In general, we expect these students to replace foreign teachers in the coming few years.
Is there any message you want convey?
I hope in the coming few years we would be able to replace foreign teachers with local ones. Moreover, we are discussing with Eritrean nationals residing abroad to provide lectures in the post-graduate programs inside the country for some time. We were able to reach an understanding with some of them.