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Literacy Progress in Eritrea

Education is free in Eritrea.

Making access to education easy for all citizens is viewed as a basic human right. All parents are obliged to send their children to school at the appropriate age. Adults who were not able to get formal schooling as children are given adult and non-formal education. Literacy campaign for out-of-school population is introduced and promoted as a solid foundation for further education and training so as to sustain the main development undertakings of the country.

A national policy on adult and non-formal education (ANFE) has been in place since 2005. The ANFE provides basic education to all citizens who were not able to complete their schooling and gives them a second chance to enable them pursue further education.

The ANFE currently covers literacy and post-literacy programs for adults between 15 and 45 years of age and complementary basic education for out-of-school children aged 9-14 years. It also gives access to continuing education through evening or extension programs and opens community reading rooms in a bid to cultivate the habit of reading among the population and promote self-learning.

The target groups of the ANFE are adults, the youth and children who did not have the opportunity to go to school. The main objective of the literacy and post-literacy programs is to enhance and sustain achievements so far attained and to ensure access for further education and training.

In Eritrea, the literacy campaign has been on track since 1999 as a Government program with a full support of local partners. Efforts continue to be made to sustain and enhance the significant progress made since the launching of ANFE.

Owing to the commitments made towards the literacy campaign, encouraging results have been recorded while important lessons have been learned.

The majority of the participants in the literacy campaign in the period between 2010 and 2016 have been from Anseba, Gash- Barka, and Southern and Northern Red Sea regions (making up 89% of the overall number of learners in the literacy activities). In the last five years, literacy enrollment has been the highest in the Gash-Barka region. In the 2015/16 academic year, for instance, Gash-Barka enrolled 44.2% of the total number while Northern Red Sea Region (NRSR) is ranked second with an enrollment of 26.5%. An increase in the literacy enrollment in the Gash-Barka region is a significant progress considering that it was listed at the bottom in the national literacy status survey of 2008.

Utmost focus has been given to the disadvantaged areas of the country and basic literacy is given in all nine local languages.

Complementary elementary education has been a component of the ANFE for out-of-school children between 9 and 14 years of age. An agreement was reached between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to officially launch the provision of education in the Gash-Barka, Anseba, Northern and Southern Red Sea regions.

The total number of learners enrolled in Complementary Elementary Education (CEE) since its inception in 2006 has been 28,000 out of which 12,698 are female, making up 45.2% of the overall enrollment. A tracer study conducted in 2016 shows that 1,800 of CEE learners have pursued their education at junior and secondary schools while some joined institutions of higher education.

As a result of the relentless efforts in promoting literacy, Eritrea received a “Literacy Award” in 2002 from the International Reading Association through UNESCO.

The award was given to Eritrea for these reasons: the Government’s ability to provide adult literacy program despite challenges of war, conflict and drought in the Horn of Africa, literacy access to all nine ethnic groups in their mother tongues, an emphasis on women and girls education, the opening of community reading rooms to enhance self-learning and the habit of reading among the population and other achievements in the literacy package.

Despite the encouraging achievements registered in the literacy program there are persisting challenges and constraints that need to be addressed particularly in some disadvantaged villages and communities.

Eritrea has issued a five-year action plan on literacy that covers the period 2019-2022. Some of the main objectives of the action plan include raising adult literacy rate, reducing gender gap in adult literacy; equipping learners with basic skills and knowledge needed to carry out their roles as parents, citizens and workers; deliver quality adult education, raise learners’ awareness on health and environmental issues.

The national literacy rate in Eritrea was 67% in 2008 and rose to 80% in 2015. It is expected to rise to 90% by 2022. As the illiteracy rate is high amongst girls and women and in rural areas, priority will be given to women and girls living in rural areas.

Eritrea is working hard to achieve United Nations Development Goals for the 2030. As part of the ongoing efforts, the country is currently working to meet national and international goals for the implementation and reinforcement of literacy programs in the next five years by making possible arrangements that suit the main target audience.

The five-year action plan includes major intervention areas that mainly focus on the reinforcement and implementation of literacy programs for out-of-school children, the youth and adults with a special focus on the disadvantaged areas, sustaining and enhancing literacy achievements, sustaining the existing reading rooms, developing curriculum for continuing junior and secondary non-formal education, providing material support to all adult education and training providers outside the Ministry of Education as well as other interventions of vital importance.

This article is compiled from an “Overview and Planned Interventions of Literacy in Eritrea”, Department of Adult Education and Media, Ministry of Education.

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