Higher education in Eritrea

July is the season of graduation for many Eritrean institutions of higher education. Thousands of students who have completed their studies and one year community service are celebrating their graduation and pledging their commitment to enhance their contribution to the country and society. On the occasion of this festive month of graduation, it is appropriate to share some facts about the progress achieved in higher education.

Soon after independence in 1991, reconstruction at all levels of education gained top priority and scored a spectacular success. Successive colonizers of Eritrea especially the Ethiopians have done nothing in education and other social services. Under Ethiopian colonization, the Eritrean people didn’t receive education, health and other services. The absence of services coupled with inequality of distribution of resources created enormous burden on the Eritrean society. But after independence Eritrea has achieved significant progress in rehabilitating, expanding and improving education and other social services. The colonial education with low access and high disparity was replaced by greater access and lower disparity at all levels of education.

After independence, the government of Eritrea, in its attempt to achieve social and economic development, has given priority to the development of education. The government considers education to be the foundation of all national development efforts, particularly in human resource development, economic growth and poverty alleviation. Education plays a key role in poverty reduction and social development. Without the development of education, we cannot build our country. The government has given equal attention to both the expansion and distribution of education. To provide equal educational opportunity means to provide equal opportunity for development.

As part of the coordinated effort to expand and reform education, the government made a bold decision in 2004 to expand higher education. Up until 2004, the University of Asmara was the only higher education institution with limited capacity of absorption of secondary school graduates. So to fulfill the rising need of higher education in Eritrea, the government opened seven institutions of higher education in different parts of the country. The expansion of higher education plays a vital role for the people to acquire knowledge and skills that help to enhance their productive capacity to build the country. Efforts have been made to make higher education an instrument of national unity and development and to facilitate the ability of the country to deal internationally on various fronts.

The fundamental aim of the expansion of colleges in different parts of the country is to break the bottleneck of access of secondary school graduates to higher education. The newly established Eritrean colleges have enrolled and graduated tens of thousands of young Eritreans who passed the National Examination. Although there are still noticeable gaps, the institutions of higher education have created a favorable condition and responded effectively to the rising needs of the country. Eritrean colleges are paving the path of the Eritrean youth to a brighter and more secure future. Eritrean youth are becoming the beneficiaries of the free access of college education.

Higher education is increasingly becoming inaccessible and unaffordable in many countries. But the institutions of higher education of Eritrea are operating in a way that helps the poor and the rich to have equal access. College education is fully subsidized by the government. In Eritrea, there is no student debt crisis that cripples college graduates. The doors of Eritrean colleges are open to everyone who has the knowledge and enthusiasm to learn. In Eritrea higher education is state-run and the government has a prime responsibility of governing and delivering education. The provision of higher education to satisfy the occupational needs of our society rests in the shoulder of the government. Fifteen years have passed since the Government initiated a planned development of higher education.

The steady growth of higher education in Eritrea that was registered after independence is the result of the nation’s policy to promote education for the benefit of the masses. The objective in higher education is to provide to the society with leaders at various walks of life: thinkers, scientist and specialists of various fields. Eritrean colleges are striving to prepare the Eritrean youth to become the torchbearers of the national march towards national development.

Higher education is the most vital input for the growth and prosperity of a nation. It provides strength to enable people to respond to the changing needs of the time. It has the power to transform human beings into human resources. We cannot build a sustainable and prosperous nation without human resource development which mainly depends on the health and vitality of higher education. Thus, higher education is the main instrument for development, transformation and nation building of Eritrea.

Higher education in Eritrea has seen a huge growth in the number of colleges and student enrollment. The government not only increased the number of colleges but also expanded the technical and vocational centers. The country is now engaged in the use of higher education as a powerful tool to build a knowledge-based information society. Eritrea has yet to advance in education and science and take its rightful place in the world. Power has shifted from military and economic power to knowledge power. Eritrean colleges are thriving to make the country a knowledge hub.

Although the expansion and maintenance of higher education is costly, its role is considered critical and vital in Eritrea. The graduates of the institutions of higher education form the core of nation building.

The most decisive factor in national development is human resource. Every country requires competent and skilled people for development. Higher education is, therefore, one of the principal instruments that prepare the manpower. Qualitatively, higher education equips the labour force with the necessary skills and competencies, which are essential for the advancement of the nation. Quantitatively, it helps to increase the number of educated citizens. Manpower development holds a central place in the development strategy of Eritrea and, hence, the government puts as many resources as possible into human development. Eritrea which is endowed with rich natural resources and has highly developed human resources will enjoy a high standard of living in the foreseeable future. Eritrean colleges are struggling to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and ethical responsibility to meet the future workforce needs of the country and to participate fully in the new era of peace and cooperation.