9 June 2017
Re: Progress in the Education system of Eritrea
We believe that you will have received an invitation to attend a Side-Event organized by the Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Office in Geneva, scheduled to take place, today, Friday 9th June 2017, from 14:30 – 16:30, Conference Room IX, at the Palais des Nations. This meeting is advertised as being “in partnership with the United Nations Country Team” and “the Finnish Church Aid”, and supposedly will focus on progress made in the Education system of Eritrea.
May we respectfully point out that, far from progress being made in the country’s Education system, the truth is that it is one of the least open to realising the latent abilities of its pupils and of the most highly militarised education systems in the world, geared only to providing the required number of human beings in the categories and occupations the governing regime regards as desirable. Education is being exploited in Eritrea as yet another means of social control. Please note the reality of militarised education in Eritrea, as revealed in these aspects: -
- High-school students have to undergo their final year, 12th grade, in Sawa military training camp. Many of them are underage when they go to Sawa. They spend their 11th grade/12th grade summer receiving full military training: students are conscripted into the military before they finish high-school. The classes are overcrowded and students live under extremely harsh conditions: they suffer draconian punishments, beatings, abuses and psychological stress. At the end of this year they are expected to pass their matriculation exams. The matriculation exams have life-changing consequences.
- Those who do not pass are doomed to continue the indefinite national service and are dispatched to various areas in the country in army units, or various government departments (construction, agriculture, police, public offices etc). They have no say in where they work, what they do and when to leave: their education is stunted.
- Those who pass can only hope to continue studying in militarised colleges around the country. They are still conscripts. They are assigned to various programmes of study and have no say in choosing which area of study they enter: the programmes of study they are given often have nothing to do with what they studied in high-school.
- The whole education system is geared to producing skilled unquestioning labourers and not promoting critical thinking. Many programmes of studies are systematically denied or not made available; vocational courses are preferred, with virtually no opportunities for humanities or arts.
- The military type lifestyle continues in many colleges including Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT) which is near the capital city of Asmara. Students live in barracks, in isolation from the public. They do military drills like running and physical labouring in the early morning, and other ‘political study’ programmes (one of the propaganda and brain-washing mechanisms the government uses) at scheduled intervals. They cannot leave the compound to visit their home nor can they receive visitors without permission.
- The government claims that students are given education equivalent to undergraduate and post-graduate level. However, there is no independent higher learning and research institution that resembles a university; the buildings of the non-functioning University of Asmara are now being used for various other programmes, whilst the institution itself remains closed.
- Those who become teachers are still involuntary conscripts. They have no say about whether they do the job or in which part of the country they will work. They are demotivated and deliberately underpaid. They allowed to seek employment of their own.
- Often teachers who oppose the government's teaching strategy or who seek extra employment to provide for their family are exposed to imprisonment and harsh maltreatment. Teachers are not immune from military re-training and physical labour in areas where widespread labour-intensive projects are under way.
- With the increased inflation, the salary of the teachers is barely enough to sustain them for the month, and hence the increased number of teachers who left the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere. As a result, most teachers are overworked and overstretched, with no available support system to insure their rights, or to cover for the shortage.
- The teacher’s association is almost non-existent, with no significant purpose to operate in the country other than by the government for a political campaign and propaganda. And there is no significant budget allocated to the union which could be used for teacher training nor any other financial support system.
- Teachers do not have a personal growth programme or training where they can maximise their knowledge and skills. The government does not provide means for gathering reference tools, and the libraries, such as they are filled with old and outdated books. Such circumstances make the teachers lag behind and limit their ability to transfer knowledge.
While in high-school, teenage students are expected to spend their summers doing government-assigned work known as ‘Maetot’, often in rural areas. The students, often over 100 in one place, are made to labour far from their homes during summer. These young people are alienated from their families and family values, introduced to the military lifestyle, and forced to work in the fields involuntarily under their minders who control them like soldiers. The students are stopped from doing any other independent extra-curricular activities.
Parents have no say in the way their children are educated. Although each school has a parent council, Eritrean citizens and external bodies are not allowed to independently monitor the developments of (lack thereof) in education.
This is the reality of the supposed Progress in Education in Eritrea which is apparently to be presented today, 9th of June. Whatever the members of Finnish Church Aid have been allowed to see on visits to Eritrea will have been carefully controlled by the government and not representative of the reality of Education for the great majority of students in the country.
With regard to the side-event at the HRC on Education scheduled for 9th June, it is important to raise the question as to who exactly may comprise “The United Nations Country Team” referred to in the invitation from the Eritrean Permanent Mission. It is obvious that this “UN Team” will not include any knowledgeable personnel from the UN Human Rights Council, its Commission of Inquiry, or its Special Rapporteur, since all of these persons have been excluded from the territory of Eritrea, and have never been accorded the courtesy of a visit to Eritrea.
It is likely that the “UN team” referred to include members of the UNDP Humanitarian Co-ordinator, who have been known for some time to have abandoned the cherished UN principles of independent and unbiased expertise, and have acted more as the representatives of the Eritrean regime in repeating its propaganda and advocating on its behalf.
We trust that you will bear this information in mind when you engage with the Eritrean government or when responding to the invitation from the Eritrean Permanent Mission in Geneva to the side-event this afternoon, 9th June 2017.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
On the occasion of the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council
The Permanent Mission of Eritrea to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva
in partnership with
The United Nations Country Team
The Finnish Church Aid
Cordially invite you to a side event on:
Promoting Rights to Education through Partnership in Eritrea
Friday, 09 June 2017
14:30 – 16:30
Conference Room IX, Palais des Nations
Please RSVP online: Click here