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Economic, social and cultural transformations (Part IV)

The more formulation of an educational policy and program, or possessing the will to implement such a plan is inadequate by itself. Curricula have to be prepared, qualified teachers have to be made available, teaching and training aids made available, schools constructed in safe areas and provided with necessary equipment. The EPLF and its department of education had set up a national education system, which did not previously exist. Taking into consideration the limited professional competence, and paucity of educated personnel, and the complex national characteristics, the number of books which have been produced, while not small, was far from adequate. The requirements of the war and other revolutionary tasks were further reducing the already inadequate number of teachers with pedagogical training. The problem was further aggravated by the drain of educated man power due to emigration. To surmount this problem, steps were taken to recruit and train teachers and, at the same time, the participation of students of the “Revolutionary School” and those who could teach from within the masses was actively promoted. But the number and competence of teachers remained inadequate even for the requirements of the initial period. The shortage of printing equipment, papers, ink, and therefore, of textbooks also militates against the full implementation of the curriculum, while the non-availability of exercise books, pens, and pencils, black boards, desks, chairs as well as laboratory and work shop equipment was critical. The vigorous efforts of the printing press and the department of construction and manufacturing to solve these problems by allocating man power and equipment and utilizing domestic inputs produced tangible results. Nevertheless, the remaining tasks were formidable.

The education of Eritrean refugee was another task which could be neglected; nearly half a million Eritreans were living as refugees, most of them in the Sudan. Among them were many literates and intellectuals. For the rest educational opportunities were practically non-existent, though they were limited in some countries. As, sooner or later, these refugees will play a big role in national reconstruction, the EPLF has, always been interested in providing them with education, particularly those in the Sudan. But the policy of the Sudanese government and the role of the UNHCR were hampering the endeavor. In general, the problem posed by the second class status of Eritrean refugees as well as, political, economic and social pressures had been compounded by obvious disinterest on the part of the youth.

Aware of the limitation of its resources and the constraints of the prevailing conditions, the EPLF worked to involve friendly and interested parties in the contribution of educational materials and equipment. Many of these have shown interest and provided support.

What type of education should we have? The Eritrean people speak different languages and have different cultural levels. In the context of a people with such a diverse composition, it was essential that educational policy should be clearly articulated, especially with respect to languages, and promoting voluntary national unity and nation-building.

Taking this as its central point, the educational policy of the EPLF has emphasized the following fundamental principles. Each nationality has the right to develop its spoken and written language and to use it in its internal administration. The educational and cultural gap between Eritrean nationalities and regions should be narrowed and leveled by giving greater educational opportunities to the regions that have lagged behind. The language of the majority or more developed nationality or segment of the society should not be imposed on others. The educational policy should foster national development and nation building and should not become an instrument for dividing and disintegrating the people.

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