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“The Right to Education Means the Right to a Qualified Teacher”

“Teachers touch tomorrow today”, is a proverb that says a lot about a teacher with just few words. Teachers are dedicated to nurture skilled students who change the world.

As teachers around the world prepare to celebrate World Teachers Day on the 5th of October 2018 for the 25th time, the Teachers’ Association of Eritrea (TAE) will be honoring the day for the 22nd time in Eritrea. The universal theme for this year is “The Right to Education Means the Right to a Qualified Teacher”. TAE finds it fitting for all the works and projects it has been focusing on to provide qualified teachers to produce competent students.

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day Q&A invites Mr. Simon Mehari, TAE’s chairperson, to talk about the vision and mission of the organization. Happy Teachers Day for everyone in the profession.

  • Tell us when Teachers’ Association of Eritrea (TAE) was set up and what visions it had?

The organization was established in 1958. It started with very few interested teachers. The organization first served as a club for teachers at the Etegemenen School which now goes by the name Adulis School. The political situation of the country at the time made it one of the main driving forces for the teachers to start a union. This was indirectly meant to help in the armed struggle for independence. Many of the members ended up joining the struggle. Some of them were martyred, some of them came back with a life time injury and some lucky ones came back well. One of the members, who was the chairperson of the union in 1972 and joined the armed struggle, is the now Minister of Education Mr. Semere Russom.

The teachers fully understood the importance and benefits of uniting politically and they also knew that they could accomplish many things by working together. They got together and discussed problems and found solutions. They also worked to upgrade one another’s skills. With time, as the membership of the organization started to grow in number, the teachers had to keep on renting numerous office spaces until in 1973 they finally bought the building that is now serving as the head office in Asmara.

  • -How did the Association continue working after Eritrea’s independence?

In 1965, the TAE became a branch of the Teachers’ Association of Ethiopia following Eritrea’s annexation by Ethiopia. However, since Eritrea’s independence, the association has been functioning as an independent organization. As the organization works with the same visions and mission of the Ministry of Education, it has strong connection with the ministry. By the way, I would like to thank and appreciate the Ministry of Education for all the support it gives us. For instance, the ministry relieves people working at the head office from other duties and allows them to focus on the organization. Not only for people at the head office but we now are hoping to do the same for the people who are working at our branches in other regions as well. The organization extends branches in all the six regions of Eritrea. The chain goes all the way to the lowest part of the subzones. Again, I would like to thank the Mister of Education, Mr. Semere Russom for he works to support this organization in everything he can.

  • -What are the benefits members’ get?

The membership includes teachers and people in high administration positions of the Ministry of Education. Every teacher is a member of the union. The association has around 17,000 members.

The TAE isn’t only a professional organization but a personal one as well. One of the biggest benefits teachers can get is a platform to discuss matters professionally so that they can find solutions to problems. But most of all, they can grow together and upgrade their skills through sharing ideas. Since the final common thing they share amongst them is producing good students, teachers come up with ideas on how to do that. Nonetheless that is not all our organization offers. We want to support our members financially as well. Our organization gives support to teachers who want to do research. It also provides loans that can be paid in a year or so for teachers who want to get married and start a family. Also for hospital fees, our association pays 1/4th of the transportation payment if one is diagnosed with an illness and is going to get medical treatment in a foreign country. And if one of our members passes away we give some amount of financial support to the family. These are some of the benefits our members are provided with.

  • -What are the future plans of the TAE?

The association has been working towards the visions of ensuring the provision of quality education by organizing campaigns and seminars. The TAE plans to motivate female teachers to play a leading role in the education. We became a member of the World’s Teachers’ Association after Eritrea’s independence; we are also members of the African Teachers’ Association. However, we want to make connections and work together with neighboring countries’ associations as well as local unions. That way we can expand our experiences and links.

  • -Anything you want to share with us at last?

Few of the key motives of the TAE are to make the association strong and financially capable that benefits its members and the profession, to safeguard its members, to empower teachers ethically and professionally so that they can perform their duties and responsibilities effectively. At the beginning of the school year, I would like to wish every student a good start. Also, with the peace we have these days, I would like to remind our teachers to have a mind that works for the best outcome. The goal is to produce the best students. The government has provided everything it can to the extent that it is even providing students with school materials. Students should fully understand the value of education and use the opportunity wisely. Nothing is possible if parents don’t help out. So I hope parents would be interested enough to look after their children and work hard to see their children get good results. Happy Teachers’ Day for all teachers.

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