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3.2. Primary education and Completion of Basic Education

Education for All has been taken as a compelling goal in Eritrea because it improves both the lives of people and the economic growth and social welfare of the country hard hit by long war and devastation. This above all is largely concerned with the Universalization of Primary Education because in a situation where the main economy is based on agriculture and with a large rural population, the social returns to the investments is considered to be very high. UPE is the first cycle in the formal basic education strategy and is very crucial in the development of a literate work force and as a minimum requirement for the promotion of basic education in the country. In general assessing the impact of the educational opportunity created, improvements made in quality, efforts conducted at standardizing the formal school system and monitoring aspects are some of the basic dimensions that need to be raised in addressing the goals of EFA in Eritrea.

Impact in the Promotion of Equal educational Opportunity

Accessibility and Continuity of Basic Education

The growth in school enrollments in Eritrea during the last eight years is unparalleled at any time in the colonial history of the country. In the years after independence major efforts to improve accessibility, coverage and relevance were considered as essential dimensions of the promotion of equal educational opportunity. Enrolment has been steadily growing and has been made to follow the normal pattern of positive growth at primary and the irregular pattern more pronounced at middle level. The indicated low rate of primary level in 1996/97 academic year is attributed to the decline of school construction rates in 1995. This is also related to the high boom in junior level as a result of the primary school level expansion and the subsequent reduction in intakes in grade one. As is indicated in table 7, the pattern of growth have normalized at all levels in which a 6.1% average at primary, 14.9% at middle was achieved since the 1996/97 academic year.

Thus quantitative expansion has been particularly impressive at basic education level. In terms of growth and development the rapid change of the levels beyond the primary is of major concern as is indicated in the table below. The analysis of the present situation as will be indicated latter on, however, show that there is a growing concern in the quality, which would require the prioritization and the revitalization of basic inputs at all levels. The massive educational expansion has been in line with the human capital strategy of the government to improve the human capital stock of the nation. Today there are about 114,043 more children and young people enrolled in schools at basic education than in 1998/99 in the country which is about 54% more than what was in 1992/93. This is considered a major breakthrough in satisfying the educational demands of children and is seen in respect to the educational recovery in the country and the promotion of equity of social services through the provision of free and compulsory basic education. Education is provided free at basic education level, though no efforts have been made to compel children or parents to send their children to school. Persuasion and sensitization has so far been the major strategy of convincing parents to send their children to school.

Table 7: Enrolment Growth by Academic Year and Level: 1992/93-1998/99

Aca. Yr.

92/93

93/94

% Gr

94/95

% Gr

95/96

% Gr

96/97

% Gr

97/98

% Gr

98/99

% Gr

Av % Gr

Ele.

184,492

208,723

13.1

224,484

7.6

242,002

7.8

240,473

-0.6

247,499

2.9

261,963

5.8

6.1

Middle

28,427

32,780

15.3

34,995

6.8

39,327

12.4

47,724

21.4

57,152

19.8

64,999

13.7

14.9

Sec.

31,531

32,756

3.9

36,728

12.1

37,488

2.1

40,667

8.5

42,543

4.6

47,128

10.8

7.0

Tot

244,450

274,259

12.2

296,207

8.0

318,817

7.6

328,864

3.2

347,194

5.6

374,090

7.7

7.4

In general, to achieve the desired trend of growth in the last eight years schools have been built yearly at the rate of 22.5% at primary, 6.4% at middle and 10.5% at secondary levels and the national average growth of schools is 19.4% yearly. The contribution of the non-government sector in this growth is insignificant (2.8% at primary, 0.6% at middle and 10.55% at secondary level while the national average is only 2.1%). It has been assessed that great mobilization and awareness for the greater private sector and community involvement in school construction is required to ease the responsibility from government shoulder. The percentage of the private schools was about 13% in 1998/99 and is considerably very low.

In terms of social impact the expansion of the school system has opened a gate for substantial social and cultural influences in even the remote rural and periphery areas of the country, and the educational demands of citizens in many marginalized areas has taken shape. Furthermore, it also reflects the right of the child to education on the basis of equal opportunity and the enormous commitment the government has for the basic right of children. The overall indication is that culturally the trust and interest of people in education have grown stronger.

Despite major interventions and the lack to achieve planned substantial targets, rejection of children by many schools has been a major social problem. Preliminary data indicates that in the last 4 years schools have rejected more than 60,083 students an average of about 12,017 children every year which implies that about 12 additional elementary schools of five classrooms each were needed with 500 students capacity and working in double shift. While the problem still persists in four out of the six regions, it has been declining yearly from about 22,472 in 1995/96 (50.5% of the new intakes) to 7,311 (to 13% of the new intakes) in 1998/99.

Table 8: New Entrants Rejected at the Beginning of the Academic Year by Region: 1995/96-1998/99

 

1995/96

1996/97

1997/98

% of New Intake

1998/99

% of New Intake

Total

Yearly Av

Debub

14000(Seraye)

13855

11000

62.7

5180

25.1

44035

8807

Gash Barka

1226(Barka)

2655

800

8.4

250

3.03

4931

986

Maekel

5918

990

250

2.3

0*

0

7158*

1432

Anseba

NA

NA

750

8.6

750

8.1

1500

300

N R Sea

1328(Sahel)

NA

0

0

1131

25.1

2459

492

Total

     

24.4

7311

13.0

60083

 

* Does not include deportees form Ethiopia not admitted during 1998-99 due to lack of space

An important phenomenon very much related is the AIR and this could be seen in relation to the number of children returned. At national level it could be said that AIR has grown by about 5.1% since 1993 and about 19.8% yearly since 1996. Another proof for the educational recovery of the country is the improvement in the NIR that has grown from 12.8% in 1993 to 20.2% in 1998. When data is disaggregated at regional level, however, the indication is that the apparent intake rate has decreased substantially in all the regions except in the Central region. The Central zone has made great progress in AIR in the 1998 due to the influx of deportees from Ethiopia after the border war with Ethiopia. A particular concern is the deteriorating intake rate in the Southern Red Sea region.

Table 9: AIR and NIR by Region and Year: 1993/94-1998/99

 

1993

1998

 

AIR

NIR

AIR

NIR

Region

T

F

M

T

F

M

T

F

M

T

F

M

Maekel

80.3

78.6

82.1

31.6

31.1

32.1

76

74.7

77.4

42.3

42.2

42.5

N R Sea

31.9

20.1

44.2

5.6

4

7.2

37.1

26.3

48.3

8

6.2

9.9

S R Sea

29.1

24

34.5

11.3

9.9

12.7

11.1

7.9

14.3

5.1

4.1

6.1

Gash B

44.6

35.5

54

7

5.4

8.7

52.3

40.7

64.2

13.5

0.3

16.7

Anseba

54.5

48.5

60.8

8.9

8.1

9.8

70.1

58.7

82

15.9

14.2

17.7

Debub

73.8

64.4

83.4

7.6

6.5

8.6

90.1

82.5

97.9

22.7

21.5

24

Nat Aver

59.1

51.4

67.0

12.9

11.5

14.2

64.1

56.1

72.3

20.2

18.7

21.8

There has been a 5.1% yearly average intake increase in grade 1 in the last 6 years (it would have reached about 38.1 if all those rejected since 1995 were accepted). This is seen in relation to the already existing serious problem of enrolment in children particularly at primary level. In general, there are several distinct policy issues that need to be considered in relation to the sociological dimensions of enrolment. First, there is the great need to maintain healthy intake rates especially in the lowland areas and strong measures for planned interventions and alternative strategies of access in these places should be considered highly. One of these is the need to consolidate the effort at bringing the school nearer to the communities. Second, is the need to reduce repetition in grade 1. Raising the participation of the community in promoting access is also one of the necessary measures.

Table 10: New Entrants Comparison by Region, Year: 1993-94, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99

Region

1993-1994

1996-1997

% Change

% Yearly Change

1997-1998

% Change

1998-1999

% Change

% Total Change 1993-1998

Av % Change/year

1993-1998

Maekel

11872

11600

9.1

4.6

11111

-4.2

12656

13.9

6.6

1.32

N R Sea

3685

2991

6.1

3.1

4915

64.3

4819

-0.02

30.8

6.15

S R Sea

1624

1072

-35.3

-17.6

735

-31.4

694

-0.06

-57.3

-11.5

Gash B

6737

5998

48.1

24.1

9510

58.6

8881

-0.07

31.3

6.3

Anseba

6425

6749

37.8

18.9

8693

28.8

9299

7.0

44.7

8.9

Debub

15238

12651

65.5

32.8

17556

38.8

20938

19.3

37.4

7.5

Nat Aver

45581

41061

39.5

19.8

52520

27.9

57287

9.1

25.7

5.1

A major concern in enrolment is the age for new entrants at grade 1. In the context of addressing equal opportunity at the right age and reducing opportunity cost, the enrolment age for new intake is the 6th birthday though in many areas this has not been implemented strictly. An age limit for grade 1 between 7-9 age was introduced taking into consideration the social, cultural and economic situation of the rural and nomadic areas. More than 68.4% of the new entrants were not of the official admission age in 1998 as compared to 78% in 1993. In grade 1 in general 2.4% were under aged and about 75.9% over aged in 1993 as compared to 4.6% and 66.9% in 1998. This would require a greater mobilization of resources, sensitization of the community, a rapid growth of the school system and management changes in enrolment so that schools do not favor older children.

Coverage and Continuity in Formal Basic Education

With respect to the improvement in accessibility, it is assessed that substantial improvement in school coverage and distribution has been achieved in the last eight years especially at elementary level. The major issue of concern in the overall strategy is the need to address gender, regional, and urban/rural disparity. The overall standard demographic indicators of school distribution are given in the table 11. What needs to be considered is that besides the rapid population growth, there has been a rapid decline in mortality rates in the last eight years. By the year 2003 there will be about 735,086 children at the Basic Education school age and about 852,792 by the year 2009. This would suggest more demand for learning provision and the allocation of greater resources for education. Furthermore, there is the general indication that a great deal of regional and cultural disparity in terms of coverage of educational opportunity. Taking the demographic indicators of density of population and beneficiary families, the regions of Maekel, N R Sea, S R Sea and Gash Barka need greater attention to improve the school to family ratio at elementary level. The same regions except Maekel and Debub also are also targets at junior and senior level.

Table 11: Demographic and School Distribution Indicators by Region and Level – 1998/99*

Demographic Indicators & Data

Elementary Level Indicators

Junior Level Indicators

Senior Level Indicators

Region

Vil N

Family No

Pop N

Area sq m

Pop Den

Villag Dis

Sch No

Stu No

Sch

Dis

Sc/Vil

Sc/

Fam

Sch No

Stu No

Sch Dis

Sc/Vil

Sc/

Fam

Sch No

Stu No

Sch Dis

Sc/

Vil

Sc/

Fam

Maekel

83

131317

502300

5581

90

4

110

72817

5.2

0.8

1194

31

27985

2.7

4236

14

25891

5.9

9380

N R Sea

327

94934

392653

32180

12.2

10

73

20850

21

4.5

1300

14

3754

47.9

23

6781

3

1195

104

109

31645

S R Sea

88

38865

189627

16

21

3798

4.2

1851

1

754

88

38865

1

532

88

38865

Gash B

784

137291

515667

99341

5.2

11

119

35333

29.0

6.6

1154

11

4170

95

71

12481

4

2685

158

196

34322

Anseba

389

84779

400846

22120

18.1

7.5

89

38628

15.8

4.4

953

16

6142

37.2

24

5299

5

4184

66.5

77.8

16956

Debub

884

193052

702502

9709

72.4

3.3

187

90537

7.2

4.7

1032

37

22194

16.2

24

5218

8

13089

34.8

111

24132

Total

2555

680238

2703595

20.6

7.2

599

261963

14.8

4.3

1134

110

64999

34.5

23

6184

35

47576

61.2

73

19435

 

Source: The population estimates and related data are obtained from the 1995 MOLG Data

In general, despite remarkable achievements in a relatively short time, the major concerns in terms of coverage are the situation in gross and net enrolment rates, regional disparity, the rural/urban settings and the distribution of opportunities across the various mother tongue schools. The government has given emphasis to favor girls and marginalized areas in the planning and implementation process. Thus, it could be said that the GER and NER have changed smoothly particularly in the last 3 years as a result of the planned and targeted expansion made at all levels of basic education. GER has risen 4.5 percentage points at elementary and 7.6 percentage points at basic education level. NER has increased by 7.7 percentage points at primary and by 5.8 percentage points at basic education level.

A good progress has been made in terms of enrolling children of the official admission age at the primary level. A comparison of the growth in the primary and middle levels shows that many of the regions with a very low rate of primary level expansion in 1996 have generally improved their status of basic education coverage. A more rapid and greater expansion of the middle level has been done at the expense of the primary level in many places. This is a critical policy issue that needs to be addressed, as this experience need not be repeated in the future. In addition the deteriorating situation in the S R Sea region is of special concern and special measures need to be introduced here while all the lowland regions of Gash Barka, and Northern Red Sea are also important priorities together with the lowland areas of Anseba.

Table 12: GER and NER Trend by Year 1993/94 – 1997/98

Level

PRIMARY

FORMAL BASIC EDUCATION

Year

1993-94

1996-97

1998-99

1993-94

1996-97

1998-99

Region

GER

NER

GER

NER

GER

NER

GER

NER

GER

NER

GER

NER

Maekel

99.8

65.6

89.9

62.4

87.2

61.6

91.7

69.5

85.6

66.3

87.6

65.3

N R Sea

19.0

10.8

26.1

14.0

32

19.6

14.7

11.0

20.9

14.6

27.4

19.4

S R Sea

15.7

12

16.2

11.5

12.1

8.1

14.4

12.1

15.6

12.0

10.5

8.2

Gash B

30.3

14.4

38.7

19.5

41.4

24.1

22.9

16.2

31.0

21.5

33.6

24.4

Anseba

40.3

20.1

49

25.9

58

34.5

32.3

22.5

40.6

28.2

48.8

35.3

Debub

70.1

31.9

72.8

36.3

77.6

48.6

56.1

38.4

61.6

41.4

70.1

50.4

Nat Aver

54.3

29.7

57.2

32.6

58.8

37.4

45.5

32.9

49.7

35.5

53.1

38.7


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