Education has consistently been recognized as the cornerstone of development for any country and one of the highest return, rewarding development activities. The outcome of Education outcome is influenced by a number of factors, infrastructure being one of them. College infrastructure, its design, quality and day to day maintenance is important in enabling the system to deliver improved education outcomes.
It broadly encompasses the geographic location, structure and design of buildings and quality of overall facilities.
Eritrea’s development policy is rooted in ideas which stress the symbiotic relationships between education and growth, and infrastructure and superstructure, with the former clearly determining the latter. Investment in infrastructure is a long term requirement for growth and a long term factor that will make growth sustainable. The discussion about economic growth and sustainable development doesn’t make any sense without discussion at the same time of supporting infrastructure and its maintenance.
The development of quality college infrastructure requires significant capital investment. The government in addition to the overall cost of construction, has allotted huge sums of money for the renovation and expansion of the college of Arts and Social Sciences in Adi keih (CASS) to provide convenient learning environment. The learning environment has a profound impact on teachers’ instruction and students’ outcome. Keeping an educational institution in good conditions is decisive for students to achieve the expected academic results.
CASS has facilities including well stocked library with books covering almost all aspects of Arts and Humanities. The library has a comfortable reading room with a seating capacity of hundreds of students. The Sports facilities in the college include a football field outside the compound, volleyball and basketball playing grounds and indoor game tools in the elaborate canteen. Each year, students of the college achieve a notable distinction in the inter-college festival of Eritrean institutions of higher education organized by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS). For the last successive four years CASS has won trophies at the inter-college festival.
CASS Auditorium has a seating capacity of the entire college community. The auditorium hosts various academic and cultural events of the college. There are also four lecture halls that can accommodate up to 200 students and are frequently used for seminars, talks and lectures by internal and external professionals. In addition to that there are Audio Visual and Tutorial Hall used for screening films by the Audio Visual Unit of the college and for supportive classes for the fresh students by senior students. The canteen of the college is also part of the physical and social beauty. The canteen is the hub of discussions and exchange of information for students and teachers.
The medical facility of the college operated under the Department of Student Welfare, provides first aid and other services. The college also gives guidance and counseling services to students through volunteers, mostly from the Department of Sociology and Social works. Currently the guidance and counseling service is not available due to lack of professionals who left the college for further education abroad.
Classroom size and space have an effect on the teaching and learning process. Overcrowded classrooms have been linked to increased levels of students’ misconduct and decreased levels of student engagement. The classrooms of CASS are relatively comfortable, with sufficient space, and are contributing to the creation of favorable learning environment. The classrooms also serve as private study areas and, hence, reduce the squash in the library and resource room.
For some who have an intense desire and love to study, any place can be as good as any other in which to learn. Some people argue that the space you are in does not matter, that the physical context is secondary, and that what is important is to concentrate on what you are learning. The students of the revolutionary school during our armed struggle can serve as a classic example of this argument. They attended their education under the shades of trees and caves to hide from aerial the bombardment of Ethiopia. Yet students of the revolutionary school are among the brightest, progressive and positive minds of independent Eritrea. This exceptional historical occurrence, however, only provides an alternative opinion and does not go against the idea of having rooms and learning spaces that are in good condition for students to achieve the expected academic results. In other words, the conditions of the schools directly impact the performance of the students.
The conditions for a quality college infrastructure include, but are not limited to, the availability of water, electricity and internet services as well as sanitary services that give comfort for students, teachers, and administrative staff. Space for study and facilities such as well stocked library and laboratory are also important. Students also need space for the development of talents and entertainment, sports, and culture. Therefore, we can conclude that improvement of the physical conditions is as closely related to learning as other educational inputs including motivation, quality teachers, and others. There is a direct relationship between infrastructure and educational performance, and that investments in educational infrastructure contribute to the improvement the quality of education. College infrastructure and facilities can have a profound impact on both teacher and student outcomes. With respect to teachers, school facilities affect teacher recruitment, retention, commitment, and effort. With respect to students, school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning, and growth in achievement. The infrastructural development that has been undertaken in CASS will make all that possible.
As part of the infrastructural development project aimed at the renovation and expansion of Adi Keih College of Arts and Social Sciences numerous schemes are underway. The ongoing infrastructural adjustments, renovation and expansion carried out by development workers include, but are not limited to, maintenance, replacing ineffective installations, water projects, sanitary services including toilets, drainage of sewage waters and play ground. The incessant infrastructural renovation and expansion of our colleges is part of the rigorous effort aimed at developing higher education in the country. The current projections of all the laborious and strenuous endeavors will not stop until we build well-staffed and well equipped institutions of higher education that can serve as centers of excellence in teaching, research and public service.
The people of Eritrea need jobs, they need health care, they need infrastructure improvements, they need quality education, and, above all, they need the attention to keep the borders safe and secure, all of which the government has been struggling to achieve. Efforts are being made by the government to expand the existing infrastructure in institutions of higher education and to reinvigorate and rebuild the economic and physical infrastructure of our country in an attempt to rebuild the spiritual and material wellbeing of the people. As it has been repeatedly said the greatest wealth of Eritrea is not the enormous mineral deposits buried and the infrastructure on the ground. In Eritrea, our greatest single source of wealth is the mind, talent of our young people. Accordingly, in Eritrea, wasting and not using this national wealth properly is considered the greatest act of stupidity and crime.
A college is an institution established for the production of new ideas and linking those ideas with the reality and resources of the country to create new and operational value. College facility and infrastructure has to be modernized and expanded at a rate that would be consistent with the growth requirements.
A successful society is characterized by a rising living standard, increasing investment in basic infrastructure, and generating new ideas and discoveries in work. Likewise, the planning and implementation of the infrastructural development project undertaken in CASS is exclusively done by internal capability. Certainly, after the completion of the project, the determination and hard work of development workers will leave an indelible mark of the determined on the walls of the college.
All of the countries around the world are investing more in infrastructure. The greatest percentage of Eritrea’s GDP is invested on education and infrastructure. In the near future, Eritrea will be able to compete with others in the area of education and infrastructure. The infrastructure sector is all about building assets for the country. It is part of the nation building. President Isaias Afwerki, in one of his interviews, linked nation building and infrastructure: “nation building requires having the necessary capacity in infrastructure”.
Although we have to appreciate the physical infrastructural developments undertaken in CASS, at the same time we must not forget the fact that the primary infrastructure of every institution of higher education is a willing learner, a willing instructor and administrative infrastructure.