In today’s global world, there are many problems that may affect the development of each state or worldwide processes at large.
The most devastating problems in this regard are those concerning military conflicts. Such problems are closely associated with low socio-economic development, poverty, starvation, high death rate, etc. In countries with long-lasting armed conflicts, like Eritrea, it is difficult to determine particular factors that provoke and ignite wars. While trying to get to the root cause, we often forget that a person is the main propeller of all happenings in this world, and all problems originate mainly from thoughts of certain people. The thoughts are the result of knowledge and experience formed in the learning process. Education is the most urgent problem today for countries that are involved in military conflicts. This paper will be limited to consideration of development processes in Eritrea, in particular, educational problem of this country will be discussed.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Report on Monitoring Education for All, as many as 42% of all children in the world who did not enjoy an access to education lived in poor countries, in 2011. The mortality rate among children five years or younger are twice as high in counties suffering from wars than in other poor ones.
Youth literacy rate is 79% as compared to 93% in poor countries that are not affected by military conflicts. These are only part of the consequences that may be caused by ignoring the educational problems. Only education can and should be a major factor in the progressive development of the poorest countries, and Eritrea is among such countries.
For a long time, Eritrea was involved in the war and various conflicts that certainly contributed to a harsh and militaristic national policy. The issue of education was not a priority, and it was not given enough attention in the national policy. Once Eritrea gained independence, the country faced the problems of destroyed educational facilities, including lack of skills in the local population that were required for educational infrastructure reconstruction and development. In 1991, the literacy rate of Eritrea’s adult population was mere 44.5 per cent. Today, this figure reached 80 per cent, which has become possible thanks to of Adult Education Program. However, according to the date of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s Annual Report (2013), today as many as 234,000 Eritrean children aged 7 to 11 years still are left behind in terms of primary school education. For the most part, these children come from families of farmers and rural residents, and they constitute as high as 78 per cent of the Eritrea’s population (UNESCO Institute of Statistic, 2012). Eritrean officials visited neighboring Sudan in order to find the way of solving this problem. Consequently, Eritrean officials, based on observation of the best practices and methods, drafted a policy framework towards educating pastoralist communities, and it was produced encouraging results, in 2009.
Eritrean government joins in with the world development programs and processes. However, there are a lot of unresolved educational problems that affect almost all groups of the population. The women are the most important focus group in educational problems. Traditionally, the tendency to unequal learning opportunities for girls and boys has been the case in Eritrea. The number of boys that enjoy education is some 10 per cent higher as compared to girls, at all levels of education.
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Women’s access to education is closely interconnected with the issues of child and maternal health. In this regard, gender inequality has its distinct negative consequences. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund Annual Report (2014), in Eritrea, percentage of underweight children was on the rise for the last couple of years, and in 2010 it reached 39 per cent as compared to 34 per cent in 2002. In 2012 infant mortality rate was 37 children per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality ratio is 486 per 100,000 live births. These figures are the results of lack of knowledge among women, including the knowledge about possibility of infection and the disease transmission to infants, such as AIDS. Today, HIV prevalence is around 0,7 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 49 years old. Early pregnancy is one more reason for these indicators. Such cases happen mostly among the women who have no education. According to UNICEF Annual Report, in Eritrea, first sexual experience in women without education ranges between 15-17 years old while those who have got at least primary education engage with intimate contact aged around 24 years old. Moreover, when the women have no opportunity to get the education they cannot defend their rights.
In the health education, Eritrean government provides special training programs for children and teachers. Four hundred preschools centers have been created in Eritrea, and thanks to their establishment, as many as 26,000 children could enjoy access to necessary knowledge and skills, including health care information. Program for teacher also has its positive consequences. More than 2,000 teachers have been trained, and now they are providing school health service in 96 per cent of schools (Bentoncino, 2010).
Another emphasis is placed on education of refugees. Eritrea is still a country with strict military dictatorship regime; therefore, many residents are forced to emigrate from the country. Without education and opportunity to receive it in the countries of emigration, Eritreans have no chance to get a good job and provide a decent standard of living for their families. Numbers of Eritreans seeking asylum in Europe increases threefold within a year. Nearly 37,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in European countries over the first ten months of this year, compared to about 13,000 in the same period last year, UNHCR reported (2014).
Level of quality in education is one more important aspect that involves every resident of Eritrea. Careless attitude to the educational process results in broken school buildings, poorly equipped classrooms, lack of books and a huge burden on teaching staff. In 2012, one teacher had to cope with more than 35 pupils. This situation makes the educational process very demanding.
Moreover, those children suffering from implications of war, continue living in poverty, and they require more time and special pedagogical approach in the learning process; therefore, the issue of professional approaches has an acute touch. Today, teachers should be professionals in many fields: further to the teaching process as such, teachers are also required to maintain health knowledge among students and provide psychological help to the children who study.
Based on above fundamental educational aspects, one can identify the ways respective problems solution. Such solutions involve installation of infrastructure elements that are necessary for the educational process, ensuring quality manuals and training highly qualified specialists. In this regard, formation of skills in the adult population necessary for active participation in the socio-economic processes cannot be underestimated. A decisive factor in achieving these goals is laying in the people’s minds: understanding of the importance of educational process for the development of territories is one of the most critical factors that can ensure success of the educational program in Eritrea.
In terms of the infrastructure component, the role of financial resources is huge, and additional funds can be accumulated through reducing of military spending in Eritrea. Reduction of funds for the army by mere 10 per cent would help to provide education to over 9,5 million of children worldwide. Eritrean military reform is one of the primary ways to prevent the migration of population. Conscription should be limited in time without any exceptions. It will create conditions for education and help to motivate young people to take part in the country’s development. An important tool for structuring logistics framework is to attract donations towards education programs, which now comprises some 2 per cent of humanitarian aid. All parties dealing with international relations should recognize education as one of the pillars the central object for humanitarian aid. Moreover, the inclusion of education in the international strategy that can ensure long-lasting global peace and bring tangible results in the nearest future to come.
It is necessary to promote the process of education among young people and adults. Attention should be paid to the diverse programs aimed at giving the practical skills. Europe can provide a showcase example; so-called “second chance schools” were established in order to allow young people to choose between vocational education and training for those adults that working at enterprises. For Eritrea, it is important to support individual innovative initiatives that will help to direct the education system and keep it on the track. The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE)’ activity and essential support programs may be an effective measure for making new significant steps in this regard and secure the development of Eritrea ( among other countries) in the future.
In conclusion, the major goal of education is to provide conditions for formation of harmonic personality. Educated people can think, analyze, respect themselves and others, and solve all conflicts through dialog and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Educated people will never make attempts to pick up any weapons other than their minds and speech. Therefore, education is the only tool that can ensure the safety and development of a harmonious person, family, country and humanity.