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Modern Education Development, Challenges and Current State in Eritrea (1839 to 2016) – Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane

The research work presented in this report will provide historically relevant genesis towards the early education in Eritrea, remarkable development phases in the 1940 and 1950s and post-independent Eritrea. The purpose of the compiled work

The research work presented in this report will provide historically relevant genesis towards the early education in Eritrea, remarkable development phases in the 1940 and 1950s and post-independent Eritrea. The purpose of the compiled work include to give recognition of the  growth of the formal education Eritrean intelligentsia in the 1940s and 1950s, a period remarkable for various institutional developments in the newly liberated from Italy colony. The work also highlights the  challenges educated Eritrean had experienced during the liberation armed struggle for independence, the newly refreshed education revitalization hope witnessed in the independent Eritrea in the 90s and the critical challenges Education programs have experience along with the failure of other government institutions after 2001

The religious institutions was the birth place of education to the indigenous societies in the currently Eritrea location. General highlights of the methods of education prior during the 19th century will be examined based on the religious institutions influence on the socio-economical activities in Eritrea relevant to the early development of Education. This phase of the study was compiled based on historical religious manuscripts and studies from travelers.

As the period of 1940s to 1950s being so crucial for many institutionalization of formal government bodies, the education development and the role of individuals during this period was studied in depth. After Italian colonialism ended in 1941, the British Military Administration (BMA) took an initiative for expanding education among the different tribes from Eritrea  through opening formal schools and training centers for teachers. By the end of the BMA the number of schools for elementary and mid schools and students rose dramatically laying the foundation for the growth of the intermediated Eritrean intelligentsia in the 1950s and 1960s. For nearly two decades Eritrea had a sizeable formally educated Eritreans at an intermediate professional level and were very instrumental to a legacy of a sound educational system under the Eritrean federal government, 1952-1962. Most of these professionals from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s succeeded for about two decades to secure better jobs in the private and public sectors in Ethiopia. During those periods many modern organizations in Ethiopia employed a disproportionate number of Eritreans in the newly formed government institutions in Ethiopia including Ethiopian Airlines, Telecommunications, Ethiopia Electric Light Power and Authority (EELPA), Air Force, commercial banks, hospitals and other public health centers. According to John Spencer, advisor to the king of Ethiopia,  noted that  Eritreans gradually dominated the high skill demanding institutions such as Ethiopia Air Force, comprised nearly 40% of the  Police and officers in the  Army; and large managerial roles in the public sectors of bank, courts and  telecommunications services. With the financial and political support from the allies, the government of Ethiopia under hailesellasie were able to make significant instructional developments in Ethiopia thanks to the educated human resource reallocated from the then federated Eritrea. The educated Eritreans who already had established world recognized the manufacturing industry, modern agriculture and modern financial institutions in Eritrea have become very instrumental to establish world-class institutions in Ethiopia.

With the new political development in late 1950’s and early 1960’s with the start of the thirty years of liberation struggle, many Eritrean educators of the 1940s and ‘50s generations were dislocated from the main land of Eritrea some  joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF), a struggle fronts with the intent to reverse the annexation of Eritrea by the Ethiopian government, some remained to work in Ethiopia and many also migrated gradually to middle eastern, European countries to search for opportunities. The fate of educated Eritreans within the two fronts (EPLF and ELP) was unfortunate which led for many to be killed in the front lines, some became victms of the ELF and EPLF leaders and others became victims of the Ethiopian government who was arresting educated individuals with sympathy towards the Eritrean cause for independence. The review of historical accounts of Education during this period will address how political developments affected the educated individuals and the gaps it created in the formal education in Eritrea.

After 1991 there was high expectation for the expansion of  education starting from elementary to higher levels including to advance the University level training to a much broader stratum of the population. Like many other newly institutions promising growths, during a short period (less than a decade) there was good progress in the revival of Eritrean education until the intentional down grading of the Eritrean intellectuals by the undemocratic government of Isaias including the closure of the only University in the country, University of Asmara in 2006 and the program that transferred students to a military camp before completing their high school studies .
The work also provides a systematic slaughtering of the foundation for developing educated labor skills and a knowledge-based economy. The government of Eritrea In 2002 under the pretext of initiating economic recovery programs the Eritrean government introduced the Wefri Warsay Yika’alo but the main purpose of this program was to restrict higher education and prevent the possibility of students criticizing.  Since then, 10, 000 school leavers are sent every year to the army after failing to pass the examination at the Sawa School. These school leavers are restricted to road construction, dam and house building, and to military service.

Today Eritrea has in proportion to its population the highest number of people in prison and more prisons than educators and universities. For three decades (from 1960 to 1990) Eritrea had experienced a brain drain due to Ethiopian political oppression in Ethiopia and the disappearance of the educated in the armed struggle places in Eritrea. Unexpectedly the brain-drain and the demise of Education institutions has continued shortly after Eritrea became an independence nation.  In fact, it has grown as a result of increasing harassment of intellectuals and restrictions on the freedom of expression after 2001, since then the situation has continued to deteriorate and the brain-drain has doubled.Eritrean society is now much more likely to have an acute shortage of professionals and para-professionals,  it is sad to see the decline of education and of the professions which had a reasonably good standard in the 1950s.

The objectives of this work was to revitalize the hope among the younger generations to learn the positive education developments, and provide testimonies to the individuals who made significant contribution from Eritrean intellecturals of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.   Their achievements reside in education, in career development as well as in their contribution during the liberation struggle for independence.

The research work presented in this report is divided chronologically into six parts.

Remarks: At the end I would like to point out for readers, that this compilation is not yet completed. It still requires further research to make it a valuable document for future generations. To achieve this task it is necessary for everyone to participate in this research through contributing:

  • biography or short story of someone that could be a member of your family or friend who gained education between the 1870s and 1970s.
  • autobiography or short story of what you recall when you were a student/ teacher  in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
  • short article related to the development of education in Eritrea.

I would appreciate if you could send me any relevant information to the contents of this document by e-mail:

Read More: Modern Education Development, Challenges and Current State in Eritrea (1839 to 2016)

Review overview
  • k.tewolde March 16, 2017

    I am a living example of your research Mr. Kidane,barely finished high school halfway through 12 grade before the eve of the matriculation exam the call came from the Asmara brave fedayin at that time and I ended up in the field.To make the story short,at the end of ‘hadhid Quinat’ when ELA vacated the field,I was fortunate enough a year later,I found myself enrolled in a junior college in the USA.Somebody will ask,how did you end up in college without finishing high school?simple,the guidance counselor was so impressed during my interview,he handed me the CLEP exam and I finished it 99.4% grade in less than the allocated time.The point,the quality of education we had back then cannot be compared to what is in the current Eritrea,we use to solve complicated logarithms at 7th grade level.Today the education is replaced by indoctrination then a lifetime of militarization and that doesn’t require a grade school competence. This land of bright genome deserves better.

    • Mohamed March 17, 2017

      Congratulations K.Tewelde

      You are a good example of a generation that paid so much to liberate Eritrea and yet forced to live away from it of because a brute that hates free men.
      This cannot be the end of the story, it’s matter of time before Eritrea gets back in the hand of its people.

  • PH March 17, 2017

    ሰብ ወሓደ በቢ ሓደ! እቲ ሓደ ግን ይነብር ኣሎ እንዳ ሰወደ! ሳላ ዝደንቆረ ዝዓወረ ብሕሳደ! ኤርትራዊ ክድንቁር ወይ ክበርስ ፡ባህ ዝብሎ ሊቀ ሊቃውንቲ መሊኣከሞት ዓዲ ሓሎ

  • Naturally smart March 18, 2017

    ከም ርእይቶይ ኤርትራዊ ከይተማህረ ምሁር: ብተፈጥርኡ ድማ ስልጡን ስለ ዝኾነ ትምህርትን ስልጣኔን ንኢትዮጵያውያንን ንዝተረፈ ሙሉእ ዓለምን እምበር: ንዓና ኤርትራውያን ኣይምልከተናን እዩ…ፍረ እቲ “ኣድላይን ሓቀኛን” ዝነበረ ቃልስና: ድፋዕ ምዂዓትን፤ኣብ ባሕሪ ምጥሓልን “( ናይ ጀጋኑ)” ኣለና.

    ትምህርትን ምዕባለን ናይ ተጋሩ ወያነ ብምዃኑ ብቓልስና ውጉዝ ‘ዩ !

    • Solomon March 18, 2017

      Well said naturally smart and brilliant man, I really like your sense of humor and please keep it up all the time. Sadly, there are too many fake writers but very few genuine ones.

  • FM March 19, 2017

    Ato Rosoum Kidane historical context is a good starting point to discuss the issue of education or “miseducation” of Eritreans. His recognition of religious basis of education, whether Christian or Quranic is to be appreciated. The introduction of “Western Education” has stunted and supplanted the evolution of traditional education system as backward and unscientific. Western education was founded on church/religious tradition out of which the secular system developed. The hegemony of Western education became the means of global domination at the expense of indigenous systems. The diffusion of education should be complementary and shared knowledge not a replacement of one with another. In the case of Eritrea, education of any form is not validated unless it serves the purpose of a system social brain-wash. The goal is to create subservient society for a self-serving system.

  • Ogbai Ghebremedhin March 20, 2017

    Brother Russom: I commend you on the noble cause you have started; it is a great challenge but a very important reference toward the renaissance of Eritrea at its birth to freedom and justice. This task is undoubtedly the responsibility, particularly, of the 50th and 60th young generation who were fortunate to enjoy the most profound quality of education within a society of a noble culture with long history. May the fruits of your labour reach every Eritrean home. And may other educated Eritreans follow y.our example to share the wealth of their knowledge toward rebuilding our beloved motherland Eritrea.

  • Ogbai Ghebremedhin March 20, 2017

    “Understanding is the beginning of freedom.” It is our lack of understanding our noble history that made us easy prey of the fascist dictator, the prince of ignorance and darkness. It is time for us to come out of the quagmire of divisive polemics, and discover the truth which will set us free. “The most violent element in society is ignorance” (Anonymous). Let us therefore make it our daily waking up prayer to embrace wisdom, the legacy of our forefathers, and hate to its core ignorance, the curse of the tyrannical regime.

  • Habte March 22, 2017

    Where can we get a copy of the book?
    Can we buy it from Amazon?

  • Eshal Fatima September 23, 2019

    Great Job!

    I really like your post.