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NCHE: Laying the Ground Work for Research

Great scientific and  technical innovations are  correlated with and ensue from purposeful and meticulous research. Diagnosis of problems and remedial solutions to myriad challenges – in all fields – are the elements of progress that continue to  make a  difference in every aspect of national and global development and that could not have transpired  without far- sighted research approaches  and adequately funded facilities.

In a nutshell, advances in the sciences and humanities, the technological breakthroughs  that have spurred radical changes in societal production and  organization throughout time  have all  been hinged on organized research.  In this perspective, the establishment of the Eritrea Research Fund (ERF) in  2013 under the  auspices of National  Commission  for Higher Education was indeed a significant, if not belated, measure that augurs well for basic academic and applied research in the country’s fledgling institutes of tertiary education.

The structured  and formalized approach will indeed offer additional impetus to  research work that has been going on in a loosely coordinated manner largely on the basis of departmental and/ or individual initiatives. Some of the illustrious research outputs in the preceding years in fact include the  innovative work  of  Aman Russom, an Associate Professor at EIT, who succeeded in turning an ordinary DVD player     into an HIV testing machine.  Saied Ibrahim’s   development,  prior to  his  graduation, of  two new mathematical theorems also stands out as an inspiring  precursor  of what might ensue in the period ahead with better organization and funding of research work and opportunities in the country.

Since its establishment in 2013, the ERF has already embarked on  allocating funds to  several research projects thus eliminating, to a certain constraint,  financial constraints that  would have inhibited serious research work.

It  was  against this  backdrop that the  Eritrea Research Fund organized a  two-day workshop at  the  Conference Hall of  the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers on  17  December this month. Addressing the workshop, the  Minister of  Education, Mr Semere Russom emphasized  the importance that the Government of Eritrea attaches to research – both in the institutes of higher education as well as in other bodies.

Local problems are  better addressed  through local research initiatives and projects. Stating that research and innovation are critical components  and    pre-requisite for  the  country’s development process, Minister Semere stressed that “a problem-focused research approach does not only come up with practical and viable solutions to societal problems,  but it also informs the decision and policy making processes.”

Prof. Tadese Mehari, Executive Director of National Commission for  Higher Education, for  his part  underlined the   symbiotic ties between, and the impact and relevance of  research, on  the teaching process itself. Adaptation and development of the curricula in the degree and diploma courses offered by the various institutions of higher education in the country cannot in fact be carried out without serious and relevant research programmes and projects.

Prof. Tadese stated that despite limited resources, the  NCHE continues to encourage research in all institutions of higher education through soliciting funds, the provision of  assistance for  the construction of research facilities and  infrastructure, as  well  as through initiating joint research ventures with  external partners with whom it has established exchange  programmes  and other academic  networks.  The Eritrea Research Fund has so far issued three invitations  in the past two years for application  to research funds from prospective candidates. Many of  the  research projects submitted for funding have come both from institutions  of higher education in the country as well as  research centers in  various government ministries.

Professor Zemenfes Tsgie, Head  of  the  Research Bureau at the NCHE, elaborated  on the status and progress of the research programmes which have received ERF funding.  Professor Zemenfes indicated that while the aggregate number of research proposals submitted for  funding was  80, only 42 research  proposals  were currently receiving funds from the Research Fund. 19 of these have now been completed, including two books and teaching materials. The research covered wide areas of culture, history, languages and literature, health and education, energy,  natural  resources  and environment, food  security, poverty eradication, sustainable livelihoods, and  gender among others.

Some of the papers presented at the workshop include: “Youth Entrepreneurship”, by Dr. Gergish Tekle, instructor at Halhale College of  Business and Economics; Conservation of  coral  reefs, a joint research paper by Dr. Zekaria Abdelkerim, Mr. Abiselom Girmai, and Mr. Temesgen Ghebremeskel. There were also several papers related to  the  enhancement of medical and educational services. Prevention to  post  surgical complications   and  easing pains that may happen during operation assisted delivery was presented by Mr. Girmai Gebrezgabihier  and Mr. Desale Tewelde.

All in all a total of 16 research papers that mostly address societal and  environmental issues were presented during the workshop.

Broadening the scope of research work to include Eritreans  in the Daispora, expatriate researches who are interested in the country, all  government ministries and relevant bodies was one of the issues discussed at the workshop. In this respect, Professor Tadesse Mehari again stressed the dividend from expanded  research both in terms  of  generating applicable solutions to identified problems as well as to the teaching profession. “The more research outputs are injected to  courses, the  more teaching becomes relevant and meaningful.” Prof. Tadese Mehari remarked. This was also related with  the  emerging practice of encouraging all faculty members in all institutions of higher education “to proactively engage in research activities,     textbook     writing and   development of   teaching materials.”

Securing adequate funding is of course a critical element for the expansion and sustainability of the research programmes. Professor Tadesse indicated that the ERF was initially established by the NCHE in collaboration with the Central Office of the People’s  Front for Democracy and Justice. The main sources of funding have so far come from the Government in the form of an annual budget.   The structured funding arrangement is useful for purposes of continuity and predictability  although there is still room for improvement. The UNDP, as a partner institution, has also injected a substantial amount of funds.


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