The Eritrean National Teachers’ Association’s (ENTA) main aim is to defend the rights and dignities of its members and preserve their privileges. It strives to create opportunities for the professional development of its members and assists them by giving, among other things, 20,000 Nfa for the family of a deceased member, financial support for members’ health care and loan for newly married couples.
The association was established in 1958 at today’s Adulis Secondary School in Asmara with a small number of members, and Ms. Gihdey Kinfe, a teacher, was elected as its first chairperson. According to Mr. Simon Mehari, chair of the association, the association was established because at the time a universal permission to establish trade unions was granted by the federal government and teachers’ associations were common in neighboring countries.
Although the association’s freedom and independence was undermined by the Ethiopian regime following Eritrea’s annexation, the teachers remained united especially because most of them were Eritrean. Like their fellow Eritreans, many were active in the national struggle for independence, which was demonstrated by their joining en masse the armed struggle.
The association was able to enjoy freedom when Eritrea became independent on 24th May 1991. On 11th July 1991 the Eritrean Teachers’ Association was reborn as an independent association.
Eritrea’s National Policy of Education sees the provision of basic education both as a human right and a tool that raises the overall awareness of citizens. Anchored in this principle the Government has since independence been building schools and developing teachers to make education accessible all over the country. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of teachers to meet the needs of the growing number of students. The association that had a few members when it was established in the 1950 had 6007 members in 1994. There are now 19,673 teachers in the country who are all members of the association. Mr. Simon said the association has chapters all over the country that convene every three years to elect the leadership.
In an effort to empower adults who did not have any schooling, the association stared a literacy program soon after Eritrea’s independence targeting freedom fighters based in different towns. For instance, many volunteer teachers engaged in teaching in their summer holiday of 1992. The association also taught disabled fighters at Denden Camp for one year in the academic year of 1992-1993. In addition to teaching, it gives financial support for different causes, including support for disabled fighters and families of martyrs, and material support to schools.
The association works cooperatively with national associations such as the National Union of Eritrean Women, National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, National workers Confederation of Eritrea and trade associations such as the Physicians’ Association and the Chemical Society. Moreover, in the last 30 years, it has widened its network through interaction with national and international organizations. It became a member of the International Teachers Association in 1996 and a member of the African Teachers Association.
The ultimate goal of the teachers’ association is to build an educated generation. To make this a reality, Mr. Simon said, teachers should continue to play their critical role by teaching and leading by example. He also called on teachers to help strengthen the association and avail themselves of its services.