So yes, Eritrea might be Africa’s little nonconformist. A refusal of the conventional recital of the lullaby sang to the underdeveloped: ‘We give you our Bible. Close your eyes to envision God, your ride to your reserved salvation in paradise will only cost you your resources, your brains and your youth… and, you just got a discount, congrats!’
Big part of Eritrea’s journey as a nation is composed of the long struggle for independence, and later by strives to exist as a sovereign nation, when besieged by abhorring discriminations all directed to a small nation of humble people asking nothing but to be left in peace. Of course, the bitter sweet climax of the Eritrean history is that of development; long years of self-relied and sustainable growth made feasible, thanks to its people and especially young.
The happy ending is yet to come and the ‘…and they happily lived ever after’ slogan will be sealed by the lately rising young educated members of the Eritrean society. Then, the Eritrea’s narrative of an exceedingly accomplished journey will officially be signed by its youth.
Putting the above in core regard, the government and people of Eritrea have always made education possible and accessible to all, with available resources. From one University, at present, Eritrean students have the right of passage to eight colleges of their appeal. These colleges started as part of the national plan to provide an educated workforce for a developing country. Education is free in Eritrea, all there is to do for anyone who wants to study is to cross the gate to school.
The challenges and shortages encountered on the way actually make the endeavor progressive. Post graduate education has so far been offered in a limited scale. But as it has been continuously mentioned in the local press and media out lets, post graduate education is finally going to be accessible in the near future. And I really mean ‘near’… the next academic year.
The measures taken so far include small range access to post grad education as well as scholarships abroad, and then, the postgraduates would become teachers and professors to teach the bigger part of students. The only ‘on hand’ option –tactic, has actually proved to be not the best but exceptionally effective when speaking in terms of ‘few options’.
Dr. Samuel Tekeste, Naib Amar, Debesai Gebrihiwet and Yohanes Stifanos are examples of the projects. They just returned from China after doing their post graduate education in some prestigious Chinese universities.
Mr. Eyob Tekle, a diplomat at the Eritrean Embassy in China, says that Eritrea and China have been keen on promoting education. He says that China’s contribution towards alleviating certain shortages has been instrumental; MOFCOM is an instance.
Eritrean postgraduates of the academic year 2017 from Chinese institutions of higher education were 18; of which 12 are now back in Eritrea. Dr. Samuel Tekeste, Naib Amer, Debesai Gebrihiwet and Yohannes Estifanos are some.
Dr. Samuel Tesfay got his BA in Animal Science. Before he left for China he served as a teacher in Hamelmalo College of Agriculture and Animal Sciences. He came back after obtaining his PhD in animal nutrition and feed science. As regards his experience in China he says that apart from the cultural shock he experienced at the beginning, his educational endeavor was an experience he’d like every Eritrean student to try.
“I understand the policies of our country are pertinent to the developmental phase Eritrea is undergoing. However, when you go outside, the first thing you realize is that there is an age gap between Eritrean students and other students. Soon after school the Eritrean youth is dispatched to respective working places, and so, at times, we might run out of time for further personal educational endeavors. So my wish is for Eritrean students to have the same chances and opportunities I had.”
“My teacher once told me a saying that goes: nobody is ahead and nobody is lagging, everyone is his/her own time frame” says Naib Amer mentioning that certain guidelines and the given reality do not leave much ‘spoiler alternatives’. Things are not always served on a silver platter. It seems like for Naib everything happens for a rational reason.
He graduated in 2000 with a degree in business management from Asmara University, worked in Eritrea’s Custom office for 16 years and then immersed in the field of public policy for his postgraduate studies. Being one of the oldest in class might not be pleasant, but, Naib says that there are great benefits packed with the fact that Eritrean students join postgraduate studies with prior work experience. Of course, the shorter the better, but Naib says the most successful students in class are normally those endowed with applied knowledge.
And Yohannes Estifanos agrees. He worked as an English teacher after studying literature in the University of Asmara. He pursued International relations for his postgraduate study. He says although it would have been wonderful for Eritrean students to pursue postgrad soon after college days, he feels that the maturity of Eritrean students is important. He expresses concern about the lack of written materials on Eritrea and its history, as he came across many people not acquainted with Eritrea; or the few who know are misinformed.
While explaining what makes Eritrean students’ journey to Chinese institutions of higher education exceptional, Debesai Gebrihiwet says that more than sitting in class his journey was learning about life and history. China is the fastest advancing country for a fact, Debesai says, it evolves in education and technology. Studying in China, in fact, has been for Debesai an astonishing experience.
“Studying abroad aids you in opening your eyes; it widens your perspectives” adds Dr. Samuel Tekeste. He further rationalized on the fact that people are indeed aware of western neo colonization but then going abroad made it even a firsthand experience, well, at least for him and his fellow friends. “If you’re brilliant, corporations start booking you even before you graduate. Many African companies and corporations want you to represent them… it’s easy to get rich in Europe or anywhere else in the world. But what about your home country? … It is wicked how they first conquer our countries and then start hiring African individuals. Over time this template was introduced and became protocol: they trick you in to forgetting that your knowledge is vitally needed in your home country where your land and society awaits for development.”
Nebai elaborates the points raised by Samuel saying that learning in China broadened their horizon. “We take classes on international studies. We dive into regional and global issues and also the Chinese history, its governance and developmental drive. So when we go to study abroad we go to acquire knowledge, yes, but also to observe, make assessments and analyze ways most suitable for home.”
“Which is why it’s important that we return home”, replies Debesai, “there is no pride in going on for personal calls and fattening your wallets. You keep those desires aside for the time being, and answer the national call. Our people need us. We need each other.”
Now that they are back “home”, they have been organizing field trips to tour developmental undertakings they missed while away. They visited several dams. And even the smallest change impresses these scholars. Naib says “The dam networking is unbelievable. It feels like now the pieces are falling together.”
Looking at things with a new point of view augmented with new experiences they accumulated while studying astonishes ‘the students on vacation’.
Part of their tour includes visits to several offices and ministries. They tell me that their opinions are welcome. When they return to work, soon, they say they hope to submit proposals on ways to enhance work efficacy in their respective area of interest.
In few words this is what the whole article is about: the worth of new ideas from fresh minds of scholars and how the people and government abundantly desire for a self-reliant sustainable holistic development.
The fact that the Eritrean people is devoted to its students and the rare occurrence that the youth always pins their objective purpose to the best interest of their people and country is what makes Eritreans and Eritrea distinctive. Eritrea’s final seal of accomplishment will be signed by Eri Youth.