Human and economic developments are areas any nation gives utmost priority. The vital role education plays in influencing the overall development of nations and societies is not debatable. Eritrea’s education system has been developing since the wake of independence. The provision of education to all nationals is a basic human right that has been the primary motto at a national level. The ever-growing skill and knowledge demand in various sectors has been a factor that speeds up the implementation of programs that are related to the provision and expansion of access to education. But, how is the education sector progressing. What are the achievements registered so far?
The national education system has been mainly focusing on giving children easy access to education and enabling the youth to cope with current skill demands. To meet this far-sighted vision, various programs have been implemented in the education sector. Students have been encouraged to develop analytical and critical thinking and to be more flexible and innovative in dealing with varying situations.
Eritrea’s educational interventions have been based on providing equal access to education for all nationals. This approach has been in use starting from the pre-independence period in the then liberated areas. The country’s education sector has now registered a remarkable progress.
Mr. Hailu Asfeha, Director of Research and Information in the Ministry of Education, said that the progress that has been registered in the education sector is highly remarkable and, thus, the provision of primary, junior as well as secondary education has substantially grown. Access to preschool has also shown tremendous growth compared to that of the pre-independence period.
Most of the educational institutions built in the post-independence period are in rural areas. Easy access to the areas that had been deprived of such benefits have enabled a number of nationals to go in line with new developments at national and global levels. As a result of the comprehensive efforts in the education sector, Mr. Hailu explained, the total number of students increased from 213,000 in the early independence period to 636,000.
Adult education has also been part of the ‘education for all’ program. Parallel to the regular provision of education, literacy programs have been provided to adults throughout the nation. This intervention has substantially increased the country’s literacy rate which now is 80%.
According to Mr. Hailu, skill upgrading programs to teachers, ensuring the provision of quality education, expanding pre-school institutions, enhancing educational management skills are some of the areas of concern for which the Ministry of Education (MoE) has been exerting efforts.
The development of a curriculum that plays crucial role in national integration and harmony and that enables the learners to develop conceptual and intellectual skills, attitudes and values conductive to the all-round individual, societal and economic developments has been at the center stage of Eritrea’s national education policy.
In the pre-independence period, access to education was confined to urban and semi-urban areas and all rural areas were deprived of such benefits. But in the post-independence period, Mr. Hailu said the Government of Eritrea has given utmost priority to human resource development as human resource is the main pillar of all development undertakings. The Government took an initiative to renovate devastated educational institutions and to build new ones in a bid to meet the growing demand for human resource.
Remote parts of the country have been priority in the provision of education. As a result, it is now hard to find any noticeable gab between rural and urban areas, particularly in the provision of primary and secondary education.
Mr. Hailu also said that there were only 65 kindergartens in the pre-independence period while that number has now grown to 524. There were only 301 primary schools which have reached 770 at this time. The number of junior schools has risen from 65 to 371 and the number of secondary schools has also increased from 25 to 108.
Of course, the construction of schools or educational institutions alone cannot bring a miracle. Have the institutions of education served the intended purpose of human resource development? A number of students have each year been graduating from institutions of higher education. The graduates are now serving their country and people with enthusiasm. The youth workers currently active in any sector are outputs of the accessible schools in Eritrea.
In the pre-independence period there were only 201 kindergarten teachers while currently there are 1541, there were 3647 primary school teachers and there are now 9000, there were 783 junior school teachers while now there are 4000 and, there were 758 secondary school teachers while there are 2500 teachers now. These are all qualified teachers who meet the standards set by the MoE. “The MoE also provides timely trainings to upgrade teachers’ skills,” Mr. Hailu added.
In the past primary school teachers were required to have a certificate. According to a new plan, however, a primary school teacher needs to have a diploma to be eligible to work as a primary school teacher. There was deficit of teachers prior to the opening of institutions of higher education. Asmara Teachers Training Institute was the only provider of teachers. So, expatriate teachers were hired to fill the gap. At this time, the demand is gradually being met with the ever- increasing number of graduates from various institutions of higher education. Most secondary school teachers are now graduates from Eritrea’s institutions of higher education.
The Eritrean society gives primary focus to education. Thus, the educational demand has not yet been met. The achievement so far registered is remarkable, but much needs to be done. The distribution of primary schools has been even throughout the country while it is not proportional in terms of junior and secondary schools. To narrow the gap, primary schools have been extended to incorporate junior secondary schools and junior secondary schools have been upgraded to secondary schools.
Students who have not attended primary school at the right age are now provided with special elementary education program. This way, the students are made to complete their primary and junior schools through crush courses to enable them complete their secondary school with their peers. The complimentary elementary education program has been practiced in some areas of Northern and Southern Red Sea regions, in the Anseba as well as Gash-Barka regions.
The provision of college education enables learners to “learn how to learn”. What remains is an expansion of post-graduate education to enable all students who have learned how to learn make a difference in various disciplines and to come up with solutions to address challenges that seek exceptional professional skills.