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Part I Descriptive Section

Introduction

One of the greatest challenges in independent Eritrea as a new nation is the provision of all round education for all. Investment in education improves the national economy and has social benefits both to the individual and the society. The failure to educate not only deprives citizens from the basic need of education as a right, but it undermines the effort we have been doing in terms of political transformation, economic growth, social justice and the alleviation of poverty in the country. This document is an assessment of the Education for All situations in Eritrea and gives a general assessment of the educational achievements and challenges. The overall assessment is based on the context in the Eritrean reality and the policy environment created by the government after independence. It must be taken into consideration, however, that the building of a National Education System is a process that started since the National Liberation Struggle.

The depth and scope of the report is organized across five areas. As a starting point for the assessment a brief description of the Eritrean society and a general overview of the political, economic and social situation and development of the country after independence is given. This creates a context and helps to understand the reality under which the intervention on EFA is made. The policy environment is another section, which based on the reality of the country gives an insight into the basic orientation of the EFA strategy in the Eritrean context. In the third part the achievements made and the shortcomings are critically analyzed to show the most challenging dimensions of EFA in the country. This leads to the identification of the basic political, social and economic issues and problems of EFA and the major functional and organizational issues that need to be considered from our experience in the last eight years. Finally the future prospects and plans in the various areas are given.

There are two factors that need to be considered in this report. First, the assessment is not made in relation to Jomtien Declaration targets as Eritrea is a new nation and was not part of the process, but the goals of the government do not deviate from the declarations. Second the time taken to make this assessment is very short. The assessment is considered as part of the system in which an evaluation of the overall progress and a planning for the future is made rather than a means for writing a report for the EFA conference. Thus, the process is taken as a one year plan in which the assessment will continue and finally a national conference will be made to present the policy document before an approval is given by the government. Thus the document should be taken as a preliminary report to be updated in the near future. Finally, it should also be considered that Eritrea is a new country ravaged with war and devastated economy as a result of colonial regimes. Thus the years after formal independence are too short for making a comprehensive assessment of the educational development and impact. Nevertheless, the challenges and a critical review of achievements and shortcomings have been made at a preliminary level.

Effort has been made to enrich the assessment by feeding data from across the various sectors but as a preliminary report this still has limitation of data in many aspects. This will be fulfilled in the final document. The data relating to expenditures on education is obtained from the Ministry of Finance but will require more effort to enrich and clean it.

2. Background

Socio-economic situation and basic social indicators

The newly independent country of Eritrea joined the international community after a National Liberation war, which lasted for 30 years. It earned its official independence in May 1993 after a UN supervised referendum in which over 99.99% of the people voted in favor of independence. Successive colonial rule coupled with repeated cycles of drought and famine in the 80s in particular produced enormous damage to the development of the people and the country. This phenomenon created a general impact on the society, which could be described in terms of two characteristics.

On the one hand the society could be described by low level of agricultural productivity, low industrial activity, poor social services, high illiteracy of about 70% and low level of education which hampered the human resource development of the society. Eritrea is endowed with rich natural resources for economic development. A major problem in the development of the country is, however, that the society has been affected by unequal and unbalanced development with a large part of the economic base, infrastructure and social and cultural institutions invested in some central regions and urban areas only. On the other hand there is a great deal of diversity in the composition of the society in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, religion and geographical variations which is considered objectively in the overall nation building development of the society.

The other important characteristic of the Eritrean society is that the people and the country have passed through a protracted National Liberation war. The Liberation Struggle has laid a foundation for the fundamental changes in the political, economic and social development of the society which are important changes geared towards development and have now formed the base for the building of a nation in the transition stage.

In general, the country is divided into six regions each having its own local government Refer Map on Erirtea: Appendix 1). These are the Maekel, Debub, Anseba, Gash Barka, Debubawi Keyh Bahri and Semenawi Keyh Bahri regions. Geographically the country is divided into the highland and lowland areas, the highland areas stretching from the southern tip across the middle of the country going northwards. These are the areas where the limited influence and investments and services of all colonial regimes were focused in the past history of the country. The lowland areas are mostly situated in the Debubawi Keyh Bahri, Semenawi, Gash Barka and most part of the Anseba regions. The capital city of the country is Asmara. Eritrea is a strategic point on the world map with more than 1000 kms of coastline and two important ports (Massawa and Assab) on the most important international route.

In the last eight years, though the time span is very short to talk in terms of major societal transformation, the government has worked extensively to assure socio-economic and socio-political changes. However, three factors need to be considered here. The first is that the country was completely devastated at the time of independence and it could be said every thing started from scratch in terms of nation building and development. In the second place there is a general limitation in capability and the existing over stretching priorities induce the country to become flexible in its approach in terms of implementing development plans. Finally it must be born in mind that eight years of national reconstruction is very short in terms of time as a factor and it becomes important to note that the duration has been a take-off period for Eritrea. Despite this, however, significant developments and achievements have been made. Of particular importance are the efforts made towards democratic governance and leadership, the creation of stable macro economic environment, a good start to alleviate poverty, the creation of social justice, the development of human resource and addressing demographic changes and issues.

Political Development and Governance

The political thinking, structure and development in Eritrea is a result and an achievement gained from the experiences, policies and practice of the national liberation struggle. Tremendous efforts to consolidate national unity and identity, responsible participation of the people in decision making, the promotion of attitudes and culture related to the basic democratic exercises and traditions and the promotion of tolerance are among the achievements of the Liberation Struggle. The political aspiration of the people for national independence was finally reflected in the referendum made in 1993 in which the people united and overwhelmingly voted for independence. One of the major ideals after the independence of the country was the reproduction of the social structure and the basic political experience gained during the bitter years of the struggle. Thus, a secular state where political, economic, and social development planning and control is the prime responsibility of the government has been established to effectively translate these ideals based on the social aims of national unity, social justice and progressive morality.

The Government has worked after independence to consolidate the active participation of the people in decision making, administration and conduct of their lives, with their rights guaranteed by law and in practice. Regional assemblies were established through democratic processes and on the basis of grass root interventions of the local population with women gaining important representation. Affirmative actions have been taken to give women 30% of the seats in the Regional and National Assemblies while they were given the opportunity to compete in the remaining 70%. Women at present occupy 22% of the seats in the National Assembly and 30.5% in the Regional Assemblies (MOLG 1998).

Various measures at consolidating the national harmony of the people and the consolidation of peace and stability with no distinction along regional, ethnic, religious, linguistic and gender lines have been maintained not only in policy but in practice. A major achievement is the effort made to assure the participation of all sections of the population in all the different areas and sections of the nation building process based on unity and equality. Efforts have been made to make the government more secular, yet respect for the promotion and equality of religion has consolidated the harmony of the population. An area given much importance is the admittance of diversity in the society in general and cultural diversity in particular.

A predominant culture of the National Liberation Struggle and which has now become a major cornerstone of the culture of governance in Eritrea is the close relationship between the people and the leadership. The extreme importance of this has been reflected especially in terms of avoiding the negative consequences of corrupt leadership. This is one of the strengths in the Eritrean government and leadership. Having a leadership in the government who are qualified and grown up in the national liberation struggle has helped in developing accountability, honesty to the people and great devotion to the causes of nation building and social justice, and continuously learn and update skills. Thus, an achievement and an advantage in Eritrea is that all changes and economic activities are taking place within a corruption-free atmosphere and refrain from corruption and misuse of power has been a typical character of the government.

The need to make the government to abide by the constitution and make the government constitutionally elected and accountable has been one of the goals of a free and independent Eritrea. Thus, a Constitutional Commission was established in 1995 to and was successful in developing a constitution by 1997 with a great deal of responsible public participation. Forums at various levels (up to the grass root level) were established to exercise this democratic process and the draft was finally ratified by the Constituent Assemblies established. Various grass root movements, associations and agencies have been established in the last few years after independence. These have created a solid foundation for the democratic participation of the people from grass-root level up to the national level. This is one of the remarkable achievements of a free and independent Eritrea in establishing a strong governance and it will not be long before a Constitutional election is made to consolidate the gains achieved in governance and political system. An election commission has been established since 1997 to work the implementation of the constitutional election but the process has been hampered due the conflict with Ethiopia.

To further consolidate the political administrative structure of the country on the basis of democratic ideals and equality, efforts have been going on to promote people-based institutions. An essential aspect of this was the decentralization of the administration structure. Local Governments have been established under Proclamation No 86/1996 to implement this policy. In the various regions these authorities work with a great deal of devolved authority to organize and promote the development of the specific region in accordance with the political, economic and social strategies of the nation. The functional role of the ministries have also been developed in this connection so that they play their decisive role in terms of promoting policies, national planning, research, human capacity building and regulatory functions. A public sector reform initiative was also launched in 1994 the objective of which was to create a lean, efficient and transparent civil service. To that effect the civil service was reduced by about half but the measure was not mainly used as a way of saving money but rather as a way of trying to consolidate the structure, organization of work and efficiency.

Eritrea has also been working in the horn of Africa for regional peace, integration and stability and economic cooperation. In the present world order of extensive globilization and high degree of market economy and competition, Eritrea strongly believes that developing countries especially countries in Africa need to work together to improve their economic cooperation, establish peace and stability and work for a greater integration. On the basis of this strategy Eritrea played a decisive role in IGAD and tried to establish strong economic, political and cultural cooperation with all neighbors particularly with Ethiopia. The border conflict, which was started by the illegal occupation and expansionist policy of the Ethiopian government, has completely paralyzed this trend and threatened regional peace in the area. Eritrea is making every effort to solve the conflict through peaceful and legal means, which is a strong indication of the correct political line and maturity of the country and its leadership.

The Creation of Social Justice

A reality considered of utmost importance is the disparity in the development within the country. Thus, the economic and social democracy in which the equitable distribution of wealth, services and opportunities is made with special attention given to the disadvantaged groups and areas has been a major priority of the government. In the last eight years, despite limitation in capacity and resources, the government has been working to bridge the gap in the development between the various regions and address the basic needs of the rural areas. In the first place the equitable distribution of investments and interventions has been one of the main targets of the government. Based on the macro policy of the country, priority was given to the lowland regions and rural areas and integrated rural development schemes have been implemented throughout the country. A major programme with great success is the Eritrean Community Development Fund (ECDF) conducted through World Bank loan. The aim is to introduce equitable distribution of basic social services in health, education, water and road transport to the remote and periphery rural areas. This has been a successful programme being assessed as effective in terms of efficiency and implementation.

Various development programmes and investments have been launched, priority being given to areas outside of the center. To translate this effectively necessary preparation in infrastructure development has been taken as a major task. This is seen in light of the need to create a conducive atmosphere for investment. Transport and communication has been taken an important dimension of this effort and in all regions of the country. The establishment of feeder roads and major highways has been major achievements, which in turn have facilitated the expansion of economic activities in remote and rural areas.

One of the major challenges in equity has been the improvement in the life of the nomadic population. Though this is a major task that has been considered as part of the overall transformation of the society, it is one of the dimensions that will entail sustained and careful interventions. So far limited efforts at introducing an integrated development project for settling the nomadic people in specific areas have been piloted. The measures were taken in consensus with the local people in places where they could develop their livestock, introduce settled agriculture and get basic health, education and other related social services. The experience needs to be evaluated thoroughly in the future but the general indication is that many communities in the nomadic areas have become beneficiaries from such projects.

One of the major equity issues seen critically has been the gender parity in development. This has been one of the major goals of the liberation struggle. During the National Liberation Struggle the EPLF considered the successful emancipation of women in the process of the struggle as one of the important aspects in the diverse composition of the society and which demanded correct solution in the creation of social justice. Thus, much effort has been done to assure the right position and role of women in the society. They comprised more than 30% of the total EPLF capacity in the National Liberation Struggle. Women not only participated in combat, but many were trained and effectively contributed to the political and economic fields of the struggle. They participated in many different areas and professions that were largely considered for men. Education in general and the education of women and girls in particular was considered as one of the most important pre-requisite and a condition for the successful social, political, economic transformations during the long years of war. In the years after independence efforts have been made to consolidate this achievements and gains with more challenges being faced in the reality of the society.

Macro Economic Environment

One of the basic goals set in the nation building process after independence has been the establishment of a strong economic order that could guarantee the full progress, prosperity and improvement in the standard of living of the people. The national development objective is the creation of a modern, technologically advanced and competitive economy in the next two decades. The centerpiece of the strategy is the establishment of an efficient, out-word looking, private sector led market economy, with the government playing a proactive role to stimulate private economic activities (SOE, p 10, 12). The economy of the country was completely shattered by the long war and the deliberate Ethiopian colonial policy. On top of recovering the economy in the immediate years after independence, the country started the challenging task of rehabilitation in order to embark into the challenging take-off stage.

The main problem in Eritrea was however, the presence of a very weak and devastated economy and the inability of the country to rehabilitate the economy with national investment. The private sector is characterized by low capital, technology and management base. The market economy with the private sector playing a major role has been the most important choice for the establishment of a strong and competitive economy. The role of government has been limited to create conditions conducive to the economic development, draw up polices and strategies, develop human resources and ensure responsible utilization of resources. Thus, on top of promulgating an Investment Code attractive for foreign investors, one of the measures taken in the last five years was the successful privatization of all the state owned economic institutions, enterprises and industries.

The main priorities of the government in terms of economic progress and prosperity have been agriculture, infrastructure development and fisheries. The national policy does not discriminate against any sector as it adheres to an integrated strategy of development but a great deal of effort has been made to raise agricultural productivity and create self-sufficiency in food within a short time. The establishment of all the necessary infrastructures has also been given much focus. Much has also been done to liberalize trade activities and the quota system has completely been abandoned while price controls were only done on some basic supplies such as bread, flour, petroleum and pharmaceuticals. Eritrea developed its own trade and finance policy and issued its note in 1997.

In the period between 1993-97, assessments made by the government and verified by international financial institutions have shown that Eritrea made a 7% yearly enrolment growth rate. In general, the National Economic Policy Framework shows that the economic development over the years 1993-97 made a 16% increase in capital expenditure while the recurrent expenditure increased at a rate of about 7.2% yearly (MOF 1999). Furthermore GNP at market prices increased by about 16.3% yearly while the total expenditure, as a percentage of GNP was 50%. At independence Eritrea did not inherit any external debt and at present its debt burden is low compared to many other developing countries. It is also insignificant in relation to the GNP and debt servicing is relatively very small. In the 4 years since 1993, government revenue increased at an average rate of about 32.2% yearly and government expenditure increased by about 20% yearly. During this period overall deficit increased by only 1.6% (MOF 1999).

Table 1: Comparison of Recurrent and Capital Expenditures: Eritrea 1993-97

Recurrent Expenditure 1993-97 in million Nfa*

 

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

Total Recurrent Expenditure in millions

1,103.7

1,551.8

2,131.3

1,882.5

1,445.5

% of Total Recurrent Expenditure/GNP

35.5

35.2

45.8

36.7

24.2

% of Education Recurrent Expenditure/Tot. Rec. Expenditure

4.2

4.2

4.6

3.8

9.6

% of Ed. Recurrent Expenditure/GNP

1.5

1.5

2.1

1.4

2.3

Total Capital Expenditure

455.3

453.9

548.7

838.2

1,143.3

% of Total Capital Expenditure/GNP

14.6

10.3

11.8

16.3

19.1

% of Education Capital Expenditure/Tot. Capital Expenditure

4.2

2.0

2.8

5.9

8.7

% of Education Capital Expenditure/GNP

0.6

0.2

0.3

1.0

1.7

* Nakfa (Nfa) is the national currency of Eritrea

The main strategy in the overall economic development is self-reliance. This is a philosophy developed and successfully implemented during the National Liberation Struggle. Eritrea achieved independence without virtually getting any outside support and assistance, by assuring the highest participation of people and a great reliance on internal capacity by properly mobilizing its own resources. While this experience still holds greatly, the strategy in general does not, however, imply negating international collaboration. The basis of the philosophy is that of avoiding dependence, promoting the struggle and determination of the people towards progress and prosperity through hard work and effort and greater emphasis on the effective mobilization and utilization of available resources in the country.

While the main focus of the government has been that of encouraging investment, Eritrea has been working extensively to obtain international assistance. This is done on the basis of partnership relations and has been guided by the principles of mutual benefit, dialogue, transparency and accountability. The philosophy has certain distinct characteristics. First the main effort has been to make the assistance developmental in nature. Thus assistance from international community is diverted from isolated and fragmented small projects, which are short-lived, into long term developmental interventions. Second considerable emphasis has been made on the national ownership of the programmes and dialogue is thus made on the basis of the national priorities of the government. Third the government and its executing bodies assume full responsibility of implementation. As a result of this the government has moved into a system where the development funding assistance fitted as an integral part of the national budget. It is also to be mentioned that a gradual shift from receiving food aid towards the monetization of aid has been made. This is believed to be a strategy vital for the successful implementation of development programmes. In general, external assistance from 1993 to 1997 increased by about 8% yearly.

Poverty Reduction and Alleviation

During the 40s and 50s Eritrea had a relatively better economic performance in comparison to many Sub Saharan African countries. The long war and the deliberate colonial policies devastated the economy of the country, destroyed infrastructure and disintegrated the basic fabrics of the society. The 1996 World Bank Assessment on Eritrea showed that most Eritreans live in the rural areas and about 50% are estimated poor with most of them living in the highland areas. Crop cultivation and animal husbandry account for most of the incomes in the highlands while in the lowland livestock income and activity is more predominant.

The basic social indicators despite significant improvements in the last eight years are very low (See Table 1). Furthermore, the situations show marked differences across regions, ethnic groups, in urban and rural areas and across gender. Thus, the developmental strategy has been based on assuring equity and social justice and alleviating poverty has been the major agenda of the government. In this respect four essential dimensions have been taken as very decisive on the basis of the objectives of the Macro Policy. These are assuring food security, health security, environmental security and welfare security with a sound basis of educational provision.

Table 2: Basic Social Indicators* Eritrea: 1997

 

Amount

Sub–Saharan Standard -1997

% Relation to Sub-Saharan Standard

Calorie

1800 Kg Calorie/person

 

-16% (in relation to 1995 figures)

Infant Mortality

116/1000 people

170

+31.8

Life Expectancy

50.8 years

51 years

0%

Literacy Rate

30%

57 (1995)

47.4%

Women Literacy

10%

71

NA

* From Ministry of Agriculture, UNDP (Human Development Report) and MOE source

Despite the erratic nature of the rainy season and many other ecological problems, the effort made at securing food sufficiency is very promising. The country embarked on extensive and effective agriculture production schemes especially in the last 3 years, which resulted in an increase of more than 359.4% in agricultural productivity in 1998. The general productivity increased from a total of about 103,000 tons in 1997 to 473,193 tons in 1998 with the introduction of the integrated farming using heavy machinery and thorough government support in about 50,000 hectares of land. The country’s food sufficiency increased from 19.1% in 1997 to more than 87.6% in 1998 (MOA 1998). In 1999 the integrated farming has been raised to about 100,000 hectares and the productivity is expected to increase significantly and improve the food sufficiency of the country. In 1997 the calorie intake of an average Eritrean was assessed to be about 1800 Kg/person/year but with the significant changes made to improve self-sufficiency in food and nutrition, it is expected that this has improved substantially though accurate data is not yet available.

Improving the health condition of the people was also taken as a major target of combating poverty in the country. The main strategy taken was the establishment of an effective Primary Health Network throughout the country especially in rural and remote areas. As distance was a major problem, the establishment of health centers and stations was considered as a major way of creating favorable access leading to Universal Primary Health Care. The access to health facility within a 10-km distance increased from 10% in 1991 to 70% in 1998 (MOH 1998). The involvement and training of community practitioners in basic health services at grass root level is one of the remarkable achievements in establishing community-based primary health care service.

Eritrea has embarked on an effective primary health care system organized on certain interrelated levels and on the basis of the demographic distribution of the population. At present the coverage and distribution at all levels of health service is that a health station serving at the grass root level serves about 5000 people while a health center serves about 25,000 people. Hospitals work at a higher level and there is a preliminary indication that a hospital serves about 100,000 people. It must be noted that in sparsely populated areas the above standards are less than the indicated figures while in highly populated areas they are well above the given figures. In addition efforts have been made to favorably consider disadvantaged groups, ethnic minorities and periphery areas on the ground of the equitable distribution of health services regardless of the number of people living in the area.

There are major health problems, which have been targeted by the health system of the country to alleviate the people from poverty and improve their life style and condition. Combating communicable diseases has become a major target in many areas and this is considered to be a sequel to malnutrition. Malaria eradication has also been one of the essential tasks. There is an indication that about 67% of the country’s population is affected by malaria, the most vulnerable being children, pregnant and lactating women. The iodination of salt to eradicate iodine deficiency was also an important intervention, with children being the most vulnerable group of the society. In the last few years preventive strategies for combating HIV/AIDS have also been taken as a central task.

Repeated cycles of drought in the 70s and 80s, the erratic and scanty nature of rainfall and other natural factors, and neglect by colonial regimes had exacerbated the water shortage of the country. The lack of safe and potable water is thus another indication of the poor living condition of the people where the government is trying to invest heavily. The Eritrean Demographic Household Survey -EDHS (SOE 1995) showed that only 11% have water piped to their residence virtually all being in urban areas. Rural areas use public wells (about 41%), spring water (26%), river stream 18%, public tap (8%) and tanker truck (1%). It must be noted this is a condition which came as a result of the various projects and interventions since independence and the situation has further improved since the EDHS was conducted. In general 25% of households are within 15 minutes reach of a water source but in rural areas this is much worse where only 7% are within this reach. Lack of proper sanitation is also a major problem.

In the EDHS survey it was estimated that about 82% of households do not have any type of toilet, the figure for rural areas being higher (about 99%). The establishment of deep pit latrines needs to become an essential component of the effort to introduce a healthy environment and sanitation in many areas of the rural population. In the past years National Campaigns of cleanliness and sanitation have been introduced on a yearly basis by mobilizing the participation of the youth and all communities and these have become normal practices in many places now. But in general, services such as garbage disposal and sewerage need to be improved greatly as they are restricted to only two major cities thus exposing a large part of the population to health hazards. This will require extensive attention and basic attitudinal changes through community-based solutions and interventions

To assure environmental security various afforestation programmes, activities on soil and water conservation and in general the fight against desertification and drought have been conducted. An extensive mobilization of the communities has been made with the youth being the main actors. This has produced a positive impact on the environment and could be considered one of the greatest achievements in alleviating the poverty situation of the country. A National Environment Management Plan was developed in 1995 to effectively guide and coordinate efforts at securing the environment. The plan is helping to coordinate the monitoring of an upgraded and safeguarded environment that is free from pollution. A Department has been established to monitor and coordinate environmental protection. Its function is to manage the impact of various projects and interventions by all stakeholders.

Introducing modernization through the cultural transformation of the society has been another intervention of combating poverty. EDHS survey shows that about 82% of the total energy demand and almost 99% of the household energy demand is met by fuel wood and bio-mass with an extensive damage to forest cover and soil fertility and the attendant environmental degradation. An intervention to improve the style and condition of living is the massive electrification programme going on which includes many rural areas. In 1994 electric energy, which is thermal, and a capacity of 30 MW supplied only 11.4% of energy. EDHS survey shows that about 77% of the people do not have electricity. There is a major difference not only between urban and rural settings but the regional towns even have a lower electrification level by about 93.8%. It is believed that no labor saving technologies to relieve women from the excessive burden of the household and other activities can be introduced extensively under such level of poverty condition.

To maximize the use of electrification in the country, which is largely consumed by companies and industries, a project that increases the electrical energy source has been going on with more than 156 million dollars of loan. The target is to create an additional 80 MW energy in the country. The EDHS also shows the growing and expanding use of radio as a means of information and education reaching about 40% of the total population in 1995. The figure is lower than the national average for rural areas by about 65%. A study made by the Ministry of Information in 1997 shows that about 75% of the population use radio. In general the availability of household durable goods as has been indicated in the EDHS is very low with about 59% not having these goods.

In general, the government has heavily invested on social services during the period of 1993-1997. The total health expenditure and education expenditure as a percentage of the social service sector expenditure is 28.7% and 36.8% respectively. This is a good indication of the commitment and effort by the government to alleviate the poverty situation in the country. The following table shows the overall focus given to poverty alleviation through proper social services investment and in particular education and health services.

Table 3: Social Service Expenditure comparisons: Eritrea 1993-97

 

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

Social Service expenditure as a % of GNP

4.4

4.73

6.7

7.6

10.3

Social Service expenditure as a % of Total Expenditure

8.7

10.4

11.6

14.4

23.7

Education expenditure as a % of Social Service Expenditure

48.4

35.5

36.4

30.7

38.9

Health expenditure as a % of Social Service Expenditure

26.8

23.3

35.6

31.8

22.3

Education and its Role in Development

At independence Eritrea inherited a devastated system of education and a wide spread illiteracy of about 70% with female illiteracy being higher than that of male. The provision of equal educational opportunity was very limited and inequitable with a great deal of disparity in gender, among regions, ethnic minorities and across the cultural settings. What was more disturbing was the low level of quality and standard of the education lacking relevance to the context and needs of the society.

In the national development objectives and strategy outlined, the human factor is considered as the decisive factor in nation building process. It is however believed that this decisiveness of the human factor depends on the knowledge, skills, attitude and technical and professional level of citizens. Thus, human resource development has been put at the center of the development strategy in Eritrea. Based on this objective the government has been developing a Human Resource Development Policy and Strategy. Efforts have been made to identify and categorize the professional level and expertise capacity of the nation, develop manpower plans that fulfill development programmes and needs of the country, outline plans for the provision of education and training, introduce plans for the provision of employment and the creation of a conducive employment environment. The plan and strategy is now in its final stage and is expected to give a clear direction to the overall human capacity building in the nation. Its delay, however, has negatively influenced all major educational reforms and initiatives in the various components of the education system.

In the all-round development of the nation, cultural transformation of which education is an important element, is a necessary pre-requisite and a condition without which all the different political, economic and social changes can not be effectively carried on. In the last eight years after independence education has become an important instrument of social change and has been geared towards the political, economic and social changes in the society. Despite limitation in capability, the government has shown strong political will to take education a high priority and the building of a National Education System is a central task.

In general the investment made by the government in education and training is very immense. There is no doubt that there is a huge task to be done in education and the responsibility has solely fallen on government shoulder. But despite limitation of capability and over-stretching priorities of the macro economy, the educational expenditure has been growing. The government’s political will and dedication is reflected in the determination shown to increase expenditure on education as a percentage of the total government expenditure. This has increased form 4.2% in 1993 to 9.2% in 1997 at an average of 1.0 percentage point yearly. This is also clearly reflected in relation to the GNP. Education expenditure as a percentage of the GNP has increased from 2.1% in 1993 to 4.0% in 1997. This is a very significant investment in comparison to the level that many countries in Sub Saharan Africa have accomplished.

Demographic Changes and Trends

A population policy that aims at the acquisition of a comprehensive and reliable demographic profile of the population has been given due priority and ensuring the development of a healthy and productive population is highly regarded as an important objective in national development (SOE, p 44-45). Though no population census has been made in the country for more than 30 years, the estimated population in Eritrea was about 2.7 million in 1997. Population growth is estimated to be an average of about 3% per year. The EDHS showed a 6.1% fertility rate the figure for the rural areas being about 7%. Eritrea seeks to maintain a healthy population growth rate conducive to the economic and social development of the country. As early marriage and low level of education is a major social problem in the country especially in rural areas, the above study showed that there were 23% teen age mothers (in rural areas it was about 33%). The teen-age mothers without any sort of education amounted to be 42%, 21% were primary incomplete, 8% with primary level of education and about 2% with secondary education.

As a result of the war more than half a million of Eritreans were compelled to become refugees in many different parts of the world. The government has been trying to repatriate refugees, with a large part of them coming from Sudan. Many of the returnees have been settled in areas where agriculture development progrmames are intensive. This has been done so as to create employment opportunity, eliminate dependency by being involved in creating their living through work and assuring their participation in the development projects. Many have also been given access to productive resources (land, water, livestock, credit, etc) in the area.

Another important phenomenon of particular significance has been the demobilization of fighters of the National Liberation Struggle. The Eritrean government demobilized more than 50,000 fighters into the civilian life. Two major drives were associated with this measure. In the first place Eritrea had the great ambition of maximizing utilization of the productive and experienced work force of the liberation struggle in the nation building process. Furthermore, Eritrea’s commitment to peace and prosperity was more prominent than heavy military expenditure after all these long years of war. Finally integrating fighters who had dedicated themselves to the long liberation war is an important dimension of social justice. Thus, many were given ample opportunity to get training for self-employment while others were given cash assistance to develop their own business. Another measure was the provision of professional training to those who have accumulated significant work experience during the liberation struggle.

A major problem now is the condition of deportees from Ethiopia and the internal displacements taking place as a result of the border war. More than 65,000 have been deported and about 250,000 have been internally displaced. This has created enormous burden for the government but every effort is being made to accommodate them and solve their basic living problems despite the limited international assistance. In many places efforts have been going on to settle people and start their productive and social life even with limited resources. Schools have been established in temporary make shift classes under the most difficult situation and trauma handling forums and seminars are going on for teachers and parents.

The government’s policy in urban migration is very clear. Conscious efforts are being made on to shift development projects, activities and investment opportunities away from the center. This has been done to create modernization and development in the periphery areas and rural parts of the country. With agricultural productivity rising quickly and the modernization process starting in many parts of the country, employment in rural areas is taking ground and therefore urban migration is not a major problem.

2. EFA Vision in Eritrea

2.1. Policy Environment

The policy environment created on Education for All in Eritrea could be seen at three levels. The first level is the macro level environment created for establishing a strong political, ideological and sociological basis of education in the country. The role of education in this respect is seen in three interrelated dimensions. These dimensions include the role of education in the reproduction of the social structure achieved during the National Liberation Struggle, raising productivity and assuring the educational right and needs of citizens. These general aims of education in Eritrea are based on the values and experiences accumulated during the National Liberation Struggle and were clearly stipulated in the National Democratic Programme of the Eritrean People’s Liberation front. After independence this has been reflected in the National Charter. Overall they represent the establishment of an advanced educational system which serves national unity and development, and equips people with knowledge and skills. Education is considered vital for enhancing democracy and justice. It is also a fundamental right to which every Eritrean is entitled (EFDJ 1994, p 33). This is taken as the basis for describing the political, economic and social dimensions of education and its role in nation building are thus central to the overall macro level aims of education in the country. These aims are the following: -

At macro level these broad social aims have been reflected in the Macro Policy of the government proclaimed in 1994. Among the important objectives stated in the Macro Policy are the need for a broad based education incorporating wide spread dissemination of skills, languages and the need for an extensive human capital because the development strategy is based on investing on people. It also gives a clear indication of the gender issues in which the participation of women in education, economic activities and employment is of paramount significance in development (SOE, p 44). In this respect education has been considered a condition and a pre-requisite of socio-economic transformation in Eritrea. Thus, it could be said that a Policy Environment on the objectives of education has been created in the Macro Policy. The objectives are the following (SOE 1994, p 39):-

The Macro Policy further gives a clear indication on the policy direction of education in the country. An Education policy has been developed to reflect the above objectives. The importance and central role of the Education for All strategy is clearly highlighted in which the following dimensions emerge as essential components (MOE 1992, p 3): -

The issue of language is highly considered in the delivery of Basic Education. This has been considered central in terms of creating equal opportunity from early childhood, laying a strong base for the social, economic and cultural development and assuring inter-generation continuity and the transfer of the cultural heritage to the next generation. Based on the language policy developed, the Mother Tongue Education has been an important corner stone of promoting equal educational opportunity (EPLF 1987, 54). The main tenets of this policy are the right to offer education up to the elementary level (1-5), which is considered as the first cycle in the BE level in ones own mother tongue and the provision of education beyond the elementary school level in English (MOE 1992, p 3).

Based on the macro level policy directives of the nation several policy orientations addressing the various forms, trends and programmes in Education for All have also been taking shape in the country. These have formed the meso level of the policy environment. One of the areas, which has been gaining importance is Early Childhood Care and Development. This is considered an essential part of the effort at creating equal opportunity in physical, intellectual and social development through early interventions. It is also seen in relation to the expansion of the mother-child care services in the country (SOE, p 44). Thus, though a comprehensive policy and strategy on ECCD is only taking shape through the integrated effort of all the concerned bodies, various ministries have been working in their respective sectors to develop policies related to this area. These include Early Childhood Education policy developed by the Ministry of education in 1995, the policy on Primary health Care of children developed by the Ministry of Health and the policy on social welfare of children developed by the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare. In addition the government has endorsed the Universal declaration on protecting the Rights of Children has also formed the basis for the overall proper growth and development of children from the very beginning.

The policy on Early Child Education outlines the basic tenets of ECE. This policy gives a clear orientation on the pre-school system in terms of the socialization process at both nursery and Kindergarten level. ECE is largely a community responsibility throughout the country with the government giving functional support. It is envisaged that the development of ECE provisions and centers will become a major task but not at the expense of substituting the role and responsibility of parents and community in early childhood upbringing and education. In addition the overall tendency is to encourage non-formal organizations and activities in early childhood development. The policy gives much attention to the need and importance of early and extensive investment in health care, cognitive development and socialization so as to lay a powerful influence on future growth and development at latter ages. The whole issue of mother care and support is also considered a central strategy and dimension of ECCD. This will also include the issue of supporting female workers to go to the labor market by establishing centers or institutions whenever and wherever that is deemed necessary, raise the awareness of the community and society and parenting education.

One of the major concerns in the development of a national education system is the development of a National Curriculum. This has been considered central to the improvement in the quality of education and a policy guideline outlining reform in the curriculum and the teaching learning process was developed in 1995. The goal set was to initiate a curriculum review in order to introduce relevance and raise learning achievement. The relevance of the education given was also seen in terms of addressing the special needs of children in special circumstances and the development of a policy and programme was one of the major efforts made in the last five years.

The promotion of a basic health service is an important policy objective, which greatly influences the policy environment on EFA in Eritrea. The priority given is to primary health care and immunization in particular for children. The policy is basically based on the effort to reduce and eventually eliminate deaths from easily controllable diseases, and enhancing awareness of good health practices and information dissemination on health practices. The Ministry of Health has an extensive policy and programme on the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI).

The diversification of the education system was also considered a major dimension of the development of the EFA in Eritrea. To diversify the educational needs of the people a policy on literacy programme was developed in 1997/98. The introduction of vocational training skills was also considered an important element of producing a literate work force and a policy guideline was developed since 1995 to implement this goal. Media has been an important part of the informal system of education and a policy to expand the media has been developed. A press law to create the right and opportunity for information, communication was also developed in 1996.

2.2. Strategies

As explained in the policy environment, the role ascribed to education in the political, economic and social dimensions of nation building is central. This emanates from the fact that Eritrea's development strategy is based on human development in which the creation of human capital is the center of the development process. The strategies on education are thus, based on the vision of human capital development and are also applicable in the promotion of EFA in Eritrea. The strategies include the promotion of equal educational opportunity, the promotion of quality in education, the diversification of the educational process, democratization in the control of education and the responsible participation of the community and all other stakeholders in the education management and finance.

Education is a basic human right and a major obligation for every citizen so as to contribute substantially towards human betterment, progress of the nation and the reproduction of the social structure essential to the development of a healthy Eritrean society. Thus, promoting equal educational opportunity in all its dimensions at BE level is a major strategy in Eritrea. This is mainly related to the creation of an equitable and practical education in the society with a minimum aim of creating a literate work force. As an initial step creating wider access is a necessary dimension necessary and it fulfills the educational demands and right of citizens. The provision of access takes into consideration equitable distribution between regions, assurance in gender equity, bridging cultural differences including rural/urban disparity in educational provision and addressing the educational needs of disadvantaged groups.

In the promotion of equal educational opportunity, creating accessibility alone is not sufficient and major steps to ensure the continuity of education up to a certain stage is an essential dimension. In the present reality of the country and based on the policies formulated at macro level, the strategy is to create continuity with the minimum requirement being completion of education up to Basic Education level. It entails assuring continuity beyond UPE to provide basic compulsory education up to middle level education (Basic Education) has been considered as the starting point. Thus, Basic Education for all is considered a central issue in the Education for All strategy in Eritrea. And the depth and scope of this objective is seen in relation to the following points: -

One of the major concerns in the above strategy is the relevance of educational programmes. Three dimensions have been considered in this respect. First, the curriculum needs to conform to the context, needs and human betterment of the Eritrean society. To respond to these demands, the curriculum needs to have national, scientific and popular characteristics. It should also take into consideration the diversity existing in the society. Second, the social, psychological, educational, language and cultural advantages of starting education through the mother tongue is considered very central in promoting the relevance of education. Thus, education at least in the early periods is given in the mother tongue. Third, relevance is also achieved by relating Basic Education to community work and activities.

On top of addressing individual differences in the promotion of equal educational opportunity, the educational right and special needs of disadvantaged groups and citizens under special circumstances has also been considered greatly. Thus, special needs education in a way that addresses the problems of citizens with learning difficulties, disability, and major mental problems of severe nature is considered on the basis of the policy already developed. The general strategy here is that in as much as possible citizens with disability problems will be integrated in the main stream educational provision but with major considerations being made to fulfill their special needs.

Education for all as a social phenomenon can not be conducted in formal institutions and schools only. The diversification of the education system especially at basic Education level is another important strategy considered based on the experience of the National Liberation Struggle. The government with whatever resources it has can not be successful in providing education equally and government resources only would not be enough. Furthermore, as human beings should be exposed to continuous education throughout their life, various ways of maintaining and continuing education in the various forms of education is essential. This implies that on top of the formal system of education, the non-formal (supplementary form) and informal modes of education should be established. This includes proper family upbringing and the role of parents and the community at large in this respect is of an utmost importance. In the Erirtean context, diversification of EFA takes three dimensions:-

Assessment in the development of African Education shows that a central factor in a country’s total factor of productivity and economic growth is the stock of human capital embodied in the country’s working population. Investment in human capital includes acquiring specific job-related skills and developing reliable work habits and positive attitudes towards work of all kinds (WB 1993, p 62). The development of technical minimum skills at Basic Education level is an area considered vital for fulfilling the various skilled manpower demands in various branches of the economy and culture. Thus, efforts to develop an efficient and effective system of skill training are part of the human capital formation strategy.

One of the basic problems in the educational provision is the low quality and the failure to impart adequate and necessary education to the beneficiaries. This happens in many ways. Some do not acquire the necessary skills and knowledge while others become drop out or fail in their achievement. The EFA strategy in Eritrea is aimed at the basic interventions and results obtained at improving the quality of BE. This is related to the social aims of education, the standard set goals of education and special measures essential at raising the effectiveness and efficiency of the education given. Thus, the main efforts have been to promote high learning achievement and raise transition from one level to another. These require maximum utilization of resources, improvement in under-qualification of teachers and proper teacher management. The use of external examinations has also been taken as an ingredient of improving the quality of basic education.

Establishing a strong involvement of the community, private and public organizations in promoting and managing of basic education is also another important strategy. In this respect the democratization of the control in education, greater involvement of all stakeholders in curriculum development, evaluation and decision making, participation in financing and the consolidation of parent and teacher relations have been taken as essential dimensions. The structure of the education organization is also set so that schools use their authority to generate local resources to improve their schools. Continued parental support and involvement is an essential basis here.

2.3. EFA Goals and Targets

In this respect three major issues can be considered from the outset. When Eritrea became independent in May 1991, there was not any involvement in the international community forums until the end of 1993. Thus there was no commitment related to the goals and targets set at Jomtien. As has been mentioned earlier, the Basic Education for All objectives up to the compulsory middle school level has been an important dimension adhered since the National Liberation Struggle.

As stated earlier in this paper, the whole system of education in the country was completely devastated by colonial regimes. This has created over stretching priorities and the rapid changes taking place has demanded a great deal of flexibility in terms of planning during the early years although the goals set on Basic Education were universal. The interventions made in the first 3-4 years were of emergency and recovery nature and it is very difficult to talk of a national plan on education in general and EFA in particular. In 1995 a general plan for the years 1995-2010 was developed which outlined the goals, strategies and priorities in education. This plan was not taken as a comprehensive plan because ever since then there has been effort to develop a comprehensive National Human Resource Development Plan and Strategy (of which education is a major part). The plan has been used to direct educational development activities level towards the objectives of the Macro Policy of the government. This led to the preparation of a Sector Plan for the years 1997-2001. In 1998 a National Economic Policy Framework has been prepared by the Ministry of Finance to further facilitate the implementation of the Macro Policy and a greater elaboration of the education system objectives has been given in this policy.

In line with the basic education for All policy and the provisional education plans set, much attention was given to UPE as a goal. About 69% gross intake rate and 67.47% GER were taken as targets for the year 2000 and the total enrolment was expected to reach 347,598 students. Alternative strategies of access were introduced at elementary level to bring schools near to the community. This entailed the establishment of small size feeder schools and the target was to build 34 schools between 1997-2000. Continuity of education up to basic education level was also a major target. Within the limits in the capacity of the nation a graduation rate of about 81% at the end of elementary level (i.e. grade 5) was targeted to reach 46.61% GER at junior level with about 80,096 students enrolled at this level.

The expansion of the primary education through the Mother tongue has been taken as a major task and the target set was to consolidate the implementation of the language policy. Raising the number of the mother tongues used as medium of instruction from 5 to 9 by the year 2000 was taken as the main target. The expansion of the mother tongue education also entailed transferring about 70% of the schools using a second language as a medium of instruction. Plans to conduct language studies and introduce practical measures were also considered as a way of consolidating the mother tongue education.

The planning and development of a new national curriculum and laying a foundation for the development of a sound pedagogic style were also taken as important targets. The plan was to redefine the school system and develop new programmes (a national curriculum, programme for ECE). A five-year production plan for textbook development was outlined. Improving the qualification and role of teachers was also another target with a plan to establish a cluster management organization in more than 120 clusters. Each cluster area was to have a School Pedagogic Resource Center, 78 of the clusters being taken as a priority. Establishing systems for the consolidation of school organization functions was also an important priority.

In improving the results of education, the target set was reduction in repetition and drop out rate. Raising the retention rate in particular at grades 1 and 4 was taken as a major concern while the low level of learning achievement in mathematics and languages (MT at the primary level and English at elementary and middle school levels) in particular were taken as a special target. Improving the transition rate to senior secondary level and the quality of the national examination at middle level was also an essential component.

In the years from 1994-97 rural areas and women were taken as the main targets in the literacy programmes conducted on a pilot basis. As part of the HRD plan, a literacy programme was developed in 1997/98. This programme targeted adults particularly women and youth and the disparity in educational accessibility and coverage among ethnic minorities, out-of school youth, shepherds was highly considered in this plan. The target was to teach a certain number of adults in five years with a pilot phase introduced at the initial stage. The literacy programmes were to be revised and teaching methodologies tested in limited areas. Similarly a general plan for the introduction of vocational skill training (in 1995), the target being the expansion of the existing 7 vocational training centers to reach a larger capacity of training per year by the year 2000. The targets were repatriated adult refugees, returning youth from neighboring countries and youth who were drop out from the system of education

The media strategy focused on expanding the radio programmes to all the local languages with more than 50% of the content and organization of the programmes focusing on information and functional content related to better living.

2.4. Decision Making and Management Process

The basis and orientation of all the educational policies is the National Charter. People from various walks of life and different parts of the country had the chance to discuss and participate in the congress of the front, which was a democratic practice and very instrumental in decision making. The overall process was organized in a way that assures the participation of the people at grass root level. Communities had great say on the education of children and adults through the grass root organizational levels of the front.

This is reflected in the democratic decision making process of the government. The National Assembly decides major educational goals and strategies including those related to the Basic Education for All goals and strategies. The cabinet of ministers decides on major policies, overall plans and guidelines for implementation based on the overall goals set by the National Assembly. This is based on the sector plans developed by ministries. Regional Assemblies that are also represented in the National Assembly have mechanisms for reflecting popular views and ideas on education through the participation of their representatives. In its turn the Local Government bases itself on the directives of the government and discussions made by the Regional Assemblies on how to implement policies based on the specific condition of the region.

There has not been any special agency or commission on EFA but the Ministry of Education has been coordinating inter-agency and inter-ministry efforts especially in programmes related to formal education, adult education and literacy and vocational training programmes. The main actors involved in these processes are the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Labor and Human Welfare, Defense, University of Asmera, The National Union of Eritrean Workers, National Union of Eritrean Women, National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, Erirtean Teachers’ Association. Recently efforts have been made at inter-ministerial level to plan and coordinate the ECCD programme and the preparation of the National Literacy Programme to be conducted at national level in the years 2000-2004.

The Ministry of Education is organized across three major functional departments. These are the Department of General Education (DGE), the Department of Technical and Vocational Education (DTAE) and the Department of Research and HRD (DR&HRD). Each department plays a major role in the promotion of EFA in the country and all are involved in the management and decision-making. DGE plans and monitors the Formal Basic Education and the provision of Early Childhood Education. Adult literacy and all other non-formal provisions re managed by the Adult Education Division of the DTAE. The HRD Division of DR&HRD mostly conducts training of teachers for the primary education level with the Faculty of Education of the university trains teachers for the middle school level. The same department is responsible for the macro level research activities on education. The ministry coordinates the activities of these departments based on the overall education policies and plans. All policy matters and plans are discussed at various levels through various consultation meetings before final decision is given. (An organizational chart of the MOE is given Appendix:2).

A major democratic characteristic in the decision making process is the involvement of all stakeholders. Various workshops, seminars, conferences and meetings are held with all stakeholders on all policy issues before they are finalized for approval and implementation. This process goes to the lowest level depending on the type of policy and guideline. But matters concerning education are generally always consulted up to the lowest levels. The integrated and coordinated effort of all those concerned bodies and agencies in the development and assessment of policies, programmes and guidelines is another major strength in the decision making process.


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