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Economic, social and cultural transformations (Part V)

On the basis of these principles the EPLF adopted the following educational policy. Each citizen should be instructed at the elementary school level in his/her language. This is done not out of desire to foster many languages but because it is easier and more efficient. English should be taught as a language in all elementary schools to enable all Eritreans entering middle school to acquire proficiency in the language which will be used as a medium of instruction at that stage.

The content of the education given at the elementary grade should be uniform in all languages. In addition, at the elementary level, students should study Arabic, Tigrina or other languages of their choice. At the middle school stage, English is the medium of instruction for all and Arabic, Tigrina or any other Eritrean language will be taught as optional subjects. At the higher levels English will remain the medium of instruction while language training in Arabic, Tigrigna and others will continue on an elective basis.

The language question is one which bankrupt forces persistently strive to exploit. These elements claim the EPLF’s educational policy is anti-Arabic and seeks to make Tgrigna paramount. Their obvious intention is to fan religious sentiments in order to isolate the EPLF. Although those who know and speak Arabic are not all adherents of Islam, and Arabic as a language is of concern not only to Muslims, it is true that Muslims have spiritual ties with Arabic. Besides there are fears of Tgrigna language domination on the part of the other nationalities, as Tgrigina-which has its own script is the language of a predominantly Christian nationality, which is not only the largest Eritrean nationality, but for reason already explained, has a relatively more developed culture. The EPLF’s education policy, however, treats Tgrigina on a par with other languages, to be employed as a medium of instruction at the elementary school level on those who speak it. With respect to Arabic, the EPLF believes that it is a language which all Eritrean should learn and has consistently promoted its use and Arabic language instruction. It does this not because Arabic is the national language or the language of the Rashaida nationality, but because it serves as the language of interaction both among Eritreans and between Eritreans and the Arab people of our region. Despite EPLF’s efforts, however, the use of Arabic has not spread as desired due to obvious technical constraints. The EPLF rejects the effort of opportunists and elements with narrow political objectives who exploit religious and linguistic differences to establish for themselves a social base which they can freely manipulate and strive to create, in the Eritrea today and that of the future, a sectarian political atmosphere which engenders conflict by promoting a system of education which segregates schools on the basis of language.

A related question raised by the same elements and for similar goals was the role of religion in education. The EPLF program unequivocally states that each citizen has the right of religious belief. Religious instruction is allowed and religious institutions will not be prevented from carrying out their spiritual functions. However, all attempts to use religion as a political and to infuse religion in the educational system in order to divide the people are contrary to the interest of national unity and nation-building and therefore unacceptable.

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