Sawa occupies a central place in Eritrean families. Sawa is also serving as a melting pot for Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups. This is another reminder of the weight of the responsibility the place bears.
It is because of such that President Isaias Afwerki chose to announce his visit to Ethiopia-his first in almost 25 years-in Sawa. Upon hearing his announcement, with scenes of utter jubilation and excitement, the crowd went wild.
His message served as a gentle reminder of how important the two countries are to each other. A week hadn’t gone by since Prime Minister Dr, Abiy Ahmed’s visit to Asmara when President Isaias Afwerki went to visit Addis Ababa. People are calling random numbers from both countries to congratulate each other, Ethiopian airlines has resumed flights to Asmara with its maiden flight Wednesday, July 18th, all of which are happening in a space of a week. It shows how much both countries have longed for Peace.
Eritrea believes the key to development is the role of the youth in shaping the future. As such young people are active drivers of change in their respective communities. Young people have a role in engaging people at the grassroots level and in communicating the goals to a wider society. Young people need structured mechanism for participation through decision-making, ideally in co-decision manner, and especially in areas that have a clear impact on young people. With the right political commitment, young people can fulfill their roles. That is where Sawa, comes in.
The establishment of Sawa in 1994 and the declaration of the National Service have been playing a leading role in developing the skills of the Youth and initiating on-the-job training in order to develop and enhance the skills of human resources and build the capacity required to achieve sustainable and holistic development. Furthermore, the reform of the education system in 2003 reinforced this policy by introducing a modern and effective teaching and learning methodology that is student-centered and designed to stimulate students’ active participation as well as to encourage teacher-student interaction.
The final year of secondary school education at 12th grade has been conducted in Sawa’s Warsay- Yikaalo Secondary School since 2003. Here, students from all over the country live under one-roof and are given equal opportunities of education, free of charge. At the end of the academic year, they all sit for their final school leaving certificate examination and those who pass with above average grades join one of the eight colleges spread all over the country. Those who attained below average grades were also given various technical and vocational training courses in Sawa so that they could acquire skills that are desperately required in the nation building endeavors. By 2010, a total of 80,000 students had taken their national examination in this school.
Sawa not only prepares its participants academically, but also produces militarily competent young men and women responsible for development and the protection of the country. To date, 31 rounds of the youth have enrolled and completed training programs at Sawa.
In a country with a close knit society, Sawa is a perfect place for the youth. For the youth of Eritrea, it is a rite of passage. It is a year when every participant gets to reflect, and feel a sense of belonging other than one’s family. For twelve months, your family is those you meet in Sawa.
I was part of the 22nd round, the first in my family. Since then four of my siblings have participated in different rounds. The forth has just graduated with the 31st batch and will arrive home in the coming two weeks. For me personally, Sawa was the best experience of my life. To this day I still keep in touch with everyone I met there-students, teachers, and trainers. Now, whenever I travel outside the capital to other towns of the country, I have someone I met from Sawa to contact. Prior to every journey, knowing that I have someone to reach gives me a peace of mind and relief.
This year’s festival was held at an important juncture for the country and the region as well. With a theme ‘Youth: The Vigor of Sustainable Development”, there is no denying the important role our Youth will play in maintaining peace and harmony in the region through development. Sawa will once again be called upon to lead the way towards achieving our national development goals.
Sawa, simply, is for us, by us.