This report drafted by Broken Chalk contributes to the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the State of Eritrea. This report focuses exclusively on human rights issues in Eritrea’s education field.
- During the last decade, Eritrea presented a good evolution in its complex education system. The progress demonstrated in its previous comprehensive evaluation highlighted achievements and improvement areas. The 2012 educational reform, known as the “Education Sector Development Plan (ESDP 2012 – 2017),” made notable strides in equitable access to education, especially for socially disadvantaged groups like nomadic communities and those in rural areas.
- Since the end of the civil war 1993, the country has stabilised macro policy objectives for education, and the current National Education Sector Plan of 2018 – 2022 of the Ministry of Education reconfirmed the strategy policies. Focusing on three main areas or pillars for the education system: first, the “development of a population equipped with necessary skills, knowledge and culture for a self-reliant and modern economy”; second, the “development of self-consciousness and self-motivation in the population to fight disease, attendant causes of backwardness and ignorance”; and third “provision of basic education to all, regardless of their ethnic origin, sex and religion”[i].
- Improvement in various metrics has been reported, such as a 6.6% increase in enrollments in pre-primary schools and an 8.5% rise in the number of such schools. The emphasis on mother-tongue instruction has been pivotal in primary education, with over 349,753 students enrolled nationwide. Eritrea’s educational policy emphasises universal primary education through the mother tongue, promoting language equality and benefiting 349,753 students, 45% of whom are girls. The advances have resulted in a 1.3% rise in rural schools and enhanced opportunities for girls and nomadic communities, with specialised workshops fostering strategy development for these segments.[ii]
- Among Eritrea’s concerns is enhancing efforts to guarantee girls’ rights to education and provide them with a higher level of education. Expenditure on education has fluctuated over the years, representing 4% of the country’s GDP, underlining the government’s commitment to providing free education at all levels[iii].
- Concerning gender equality in educational institutions, Eritrea has disclosed a coefficient of 0.91 for gender parity in pre-primary schools, with 1 representing absolute parity. For elementary, middle, and secondary schools, the figures are 0.82, 0.85, and 0.91, respectively, highlighting a pressing need to intensify efforts to secure and enhance girls’ educational rights and access to more advanced academic levels. Nonetheless, challenges remain in gender parity and the quality of education[iv].
- Eritrea has also made strides in literacy and adult education, realising a 20% decrease in illiteracy facilitated by continual workshops and programs promoting literacy. Based on the data from 2016, the program witnessed participation from over 17 million adults, with a successful 75% completion rate[v].
- Eritrea recorded enrollments exceeding 81,000 students in secondary education in the 2017-2018 academic year. Within this educational level, three crucial goals have been established: to optimise university entrance opportunities, to foster social cohesion amongst new generations, and to construct a competitive environment conducive to high academic achievement and merit competition. Despite the efforts to increase access to education and improve the opportunities and the quality of the system at all levels for the schools, the country reported in 2016 that over 220,000 children aged 5 to 13 years old remain out of schools, with the rage to 73% of pre-primary school and 27% from middle school[vi].
- The Early Childhood Development Program enabled extensive reform that got advancements in fostering early intervention, leading to a 6.6% rise in enrollments in pre-primary schools, with the total number of such schools growing by 8.5%. This accounted for 47,196 students, with girls making up 48.7% of enrollees. The initiative also saw an increase in rural coverage from 64.2% to 65%, an 18.5% rise primarily attributed to the pivotal role of the Rural Community Care Givers Scheme. The national workshop on nomadic education has been instrumental in developing and applying strategies in these communities. Eritrea has also established progress for literacy and adult education, achieving a 20% reduction in illiteracy and ongoing workshops to drive the project’s progress[vii][viii].
- Furthermore, regardless of the country’s advances and progress in education overall since the end of the civil war and the advances in the last decades, the country presents urgent issues on their policies that ensure equity of access to schooling all around the country. The challenges surround wide disparities in the level of participation among the different regions (Zobas) of the country, gender gaps, low level of involvement of children with disabilities, access to education for children that are part of nomadic tribes and for the ones who live geographic areas with difficult access[ix].
By Daniel Ordoñez
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[i] Partnership, Golbal. 2018. “ERITREA EDUCATION SECTOR PLAN.” P. 25
[ii] Assembly, UN General. 2018. “Universal Periodic Review – Third Cycle – Eritrea.” P. 11
[vi] Partnership, Golbal. 2018. “ERITREA EDUCATION SECTOR PLAN.” P. 14
[vii] Assembly, UN General. 2018. “Universal Periodic Review – Third Cycle – Eritrea.” P. 11
[viii] Watch, Human Rights. 2019. “Eritrea: Conscription System’s Toll on Education.” https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/08/08/eritrea-conscription-systems-toll-education.
[ix] Mengesha, Tedros Sium, and Mussie T Tessema. 2019. “Eritrean Education System: A Critical Analysis and Future Research Directions.” International Journal of Education 11 (1): 1–17. doi:10.5296/ije.v11i1.14471. P. 3
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