Re: Human rights in Eritrea

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Oct 15th, 2012

In spite of the tenor of your comment, I recognize your questions. I will approach them in order, since your made a number of questions (and accusations) which are either problematic, or require a nuanced discussion.

Have I thought they could have reorganized the university without closing the one in Asmara? Essentially what is suggested by your question is that the government could have two parallel institutions. Although this possible, it is more likely that it would in fact be fiscally infeasible. As I am sure you understand the primary goal is to provide as broad an access as possible. In particular, as education is the greatest leveler of possible futures, it is probably the best use of financial resources to most broadly distribute opportunity than favor a geographically and experientially narrow group of people.

Your second argument, actually implies two questions, one directly, and the other a question I am not sure you intended. Proceeding with your explicit line of questions – indeed it is certain that teachers are paid a low amount. This does not inherently suggest that the value of their instruction is commensurate. In fact, evidence points to the contrary. If you look at the past few years of test scores, many of the best performing schools are those that have been newly constructed in places far from urban areas. The importance of this is that these are the schools who are most likely to be staffed by those in National Service (operating under the assumption that those positions will not be filled voluntarily). This observation proves the point contrary to your assertion. Also, not all Eritreans want to leave Eritrea. Many of the young Eritreans that I have talked to talk about making their system better, not leaving. Although, clearly a great many do leave, and if they have done their NS I commend them even on that – but it is certainly true that we as Eritreans need to do our best to alleviate the conditions that cause NS to continue. I would argue that to focus however on NS inherently misses the point, it is in fact a consequence of a secondary issue. The true issue is clear – it goes without saying that continued occupation is as hostile to Eritrea as it was when it first occurred over half a century ago.

Your implicit argument about the Government dedication to education suggests a disturbing view of public investment in education. The Government of Eritrea, and I would argue Eritrean culture itself, has historically held in high regard education. Government, as a reflection of a society, cannot view investment in education in a strictly financial sense (although this is absolutely necessary in terms of priority setting), instead it inherently is a part of a national culture. I would argue that the Government of Eritrea has done a great deal to foster respect for this education, in fact, more so than many other countries (bar none). In fact, the Eritrean government has been clear that it hopes that those who do leave the country, whether legally or otherwise, pursue education and do the utmost to improve their circumstances by seeking continual improvement. This sets a deeper tone that unadulterated accounting for asylees.

Finally, I would disagree your final assertion that “I/people like me” do not like to hear any other ideas than ‘government [] media.’ This is patently false, for a number of reasons. Although I will not comment in its private context, however as far as it relates to those who advocate a look at the statistics – it is necessary to push back on your comment. To recognize the comments of the professor as a subjective analysis is necessary, however, it is also important to recognize its subjective nature. To truly understand the context, if accuracy is desired, it is necessary to look at objective evidence. Here we can look at education statistics as such evidence, temporal evidence provides better context to the particular question. Eritrea is surely a place of limited opportunity, however to do justice to the people and situation – it is imperative that you recognize the objective situation. The numbers I have provided are from numerous sources including the UN and WB as well as GoSE.

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