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A Discussion with Eritrean College Students

Since Eritrea’s independence, there has been considerable progress in various areas, including education. Through restructuring and various reforms, access to education has greatly increased. One area that has experienced noticeable growth and improvement is tertiary level education. Tertiary education, like all other levels of education, is effectively free of charge, and it has also shown considerable improvement in terms of rates of enrolment, particularly for females.

While several factors led to the restructuring of tertiary education in Eritrea, among the most important was the attempt to ensure equitable opportunity or access for all Eritreans. As well, it was recognized that the youth are the nation’s greatest asset and that an educated population is key to growth and development. The education of youth helps ensure that tomorrow’s generation acquires the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to fulfill their role as agents of development.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hold discussions with students from the College of Business and Social Sciences, located in Adi Keih (formerly known as the College of Arts and Social Sciences). With our meetings coinciding with the Christmas and New Year period, discussions mainly focused on the students’ thoughts and expectations for 2019 and beyond. Generally, I found that the students had a diverse array of opinions, hopes, and dreams. I was particularly struck by their courage, confidence, and optimism.

For Eritrea, 2019 is a lot like 1991. In 1991, after a half-century of struggle, Eritrea achieved independence and began a new chapter. Similarly, in 2019, after a long struggle, Eritrea has emerged victorious and begins a new era of peace and cooperation. Today, as in 1991, Eritrea aims to build a prosperous, harmonious society. And now, just like then, achieving that aim will require the skills, talents, and efforts of its people, particularly the youth.

Before turning to the statements shared by the young students, allow me to wish the people of Eritrea, both in the country and abroad, and in particular the leadership and the Eritrean Defense Forces, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Now, let’s hear from the students!

“In 2019, I anticipate very many changes in all aspects of the Eritrean society. We are ready to create and decorate our future. The removal of the previous hurdles, including the unjust sanctions, will open numerous doors and opportunities. As a college student, I expect higher levels of educational opportunities, with more physical and electronic facilities attached and also more up-to-date teaching materials and equipment to the existing colleges. As a business management and marketing student, I am looking forward to managerial improvements. We hope that 2019 is a year when the hard-found peace is consolidated, our hopes materialized, and cooperation sustained in order to make our lives better.” Simona Andebrhan Mehari (Business Management and Marketing)

“2019 is the beginning of a new era and a new chapter in Eritrean history. By annulling the previous mistakes and preserving the positive experiences and lessons, we can drive our country forward. During the past twenty years, we were able to overcome massive obstacles that aimed to frustrate the confidence of our people and the independence of our country. We observed that our resilience has allowed us to resist military aggression, unjust sanctions, and attempts at diplomatic isolation. In 2019, we are confident that we can register economic progress with the values that helped us withstand the hard times. I hope for greater cooperation and economic integration with neighboring countries, too. It’s going to be a year of prosperity, harmony, and security.” Ermias Gebremeskel (History)

“We will open a book titled ‘Development’, but with blank pages.” We are going to write the words on the pages by ourselves. The people of Eritrea have been through a lot over the past several decades. We have resisted overt military aggression, an intense campaign of defamation, and economic and political intrigues, including the unfair and unjust sanctions. We stand for truth, avowing that the truth is resilient and that it will never break, and even when buried will eventually sprout. With the end of the “no peace, no war” situation and the lifting of the decade-long sanctions, our strained conditions will be softened and improved. The youth of Eritrea, having strong minds, are looking forward to 2019 with excitement and enthusiasm. The strong winds of change blowing across the region and the country are expected to bring many positive developments. As a journalism student, I wish to play my part in reporting the development and reconstruction projects unfolding across different parts of Eritrea.” Mikal Tesfay (Journalism and Mass Communications)

“The New Year period is a special one, where people look to make a new start, develop new plans, and make various commitments, resolutions, and promises. Generally, during the period, governments announce new programs and policies to the public. In our case, President Isaias Afwerki has a tradition of announcing the programs for the upcoming year to the public. Accordingly, we are waiting for our President to help us grasp and better understand the national vision and to outline the programs that are in store to help us reach the vision. Thanks to the perseverance and intelligence of the people and leadership of Eritrea, the obstacles of the past have been overcome and our future has become visible to everyone. This year is going to be different from past years because the long “no peace, no war” situation is over and the unjust sanctions that were hampering our development are lifted. We hope that the best is yet to come for Eritrea.” Selwa Kamel Saleh (Political Science and International Relations)

“You don’t change because it is a new year. Like in accounting, the new year is a fiscal period; that is, reviewing your past, amending your ideas and work, and start marching forward with a new mindset. As a law student, I can say that the law in Eritrea is a strong and deep part of the culture. In the past, because of the sanctions and “no war, no peace” situation, the modest regional and global role of Eritrea was not fully realized. 2019 is approaching with new rays of hope. The international community has now recognized Eritrea’s legality. We will extend our domestic stability to the entire region. The doors are opened through bilateral and multi-lateral treaties that can bring economic growth. Regarding law, we anticipate the enforcement and advancement of our domestic laws to insure the sustainability of our stability.” Yoel Kidanemariam (School of Law)

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