Education in Eritrea

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Asmara, university training center

Education in Eritrea is officially compulsory between 7 and 16 years of age.[1] Important goals of Eritrea's educational policy are to provide basic education in each of Eritrea's mother tongues[2] as well as to produce a society that is equipped with the necessary skills to function with a culture of self-reliance in the modern economy.[3] The education infrastructure is currently inadequate to meet these needs.[1]


The first schools in Ertrea were those of the catholic missionaries, but in 1902 were officially created by the Italian government the first two elementary schools in Italian Eritrea, with two teachers from Italy: the first and main in Asmara and the second in Cheren.[4] During colonial times most of the students were Italians, but after WW2 the number of Eritrean students has increased: in 1956 they were 17% of the students (while the Italians were 83%), while in 2015 they were nearly all. The highest-level institution (in the 1930s) was the Italian Lyceum "Ferdinando Martini" in Eritrea's capital, that was founded in 1926.B. D'Ambrosio

Initially there were only a few religious schools in Eritrea, but with the Italian governments were started the first school systems in Eritrea mainly during the late 1930s (when was established the Eritrea Governorate). In 1940 Dr. Vincenzo Di Meglio promoted the creation of the "School of Medicine" in Asmara (the first university institution in Eritrea, located initially in the Liceo Martini), under the direction of Prof. Ferro Luzzi[5].

In 1940 a group of Italian doctors under the leadership of Dr. Vincenzo Di Meglio promoted the creation of university studies in Asmara and in 1941 they created the "Scuola di Medicina" (using a section of the Liceo Martini), linked to the Asmara Hospital (then named "Regina Elena"). It was the first university institution of Eritrea and aimed at the preparation of students for the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Rome.Silvia Nocchi

After WW2 was created the first university in Asmara. This university was founded in 1958, albeit by a different name as the Collegio Cattolico della Santa Famiglia while ruled by the Italian religious organization called 'Piae Madres Nigritiae' ("Comboni Sisters"): successively, in 1964 the university had been renamed as "University of Asmara".

In the 1990s the independent Eritrea started a program to bring literacy to all children in Eritrea. Since then the school system has reached nearly 90% of young Eritreans.

A Human Rights Watch report in August 2019 suggested that the final year secondary school students are forced into compulsory military training at the Sawa military camp, where they are subjected to systematic abuse, including torture, harsh working conditions and paid insufficiently. The military personnel control the students with physical punishment, military-style discipline, and forced labour.[6]

Levels education[edit]

School in Ali-Guadat.
Pupils in uniform

There are five levels of education in Eritrea, pre-primary, primary, middle, secondary and tertiary. There are nearly 238,000 students in the primary, middle, and secondary levels of education. There are approximately 824 schools[7] in Eritrea and two universities, University of Asmara (UoA) and the Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT), as well as several smaller colleges and technical schools.

Current centers of tertiary education in Eritrea include, the College of Marine Biology, the College of Agriculture, the College of Arts and Social Sciences, the College of Business and Economics, the College of Nursing and Health Technology, as well as EIT and the UoA.There are some big primary and middle schools like Mai-Tesfa, Awet and Model[8]

The education system in Eritrea is also designed to promote private sector schooling, equal access for all groups (i.e. prevent gender discrimination, prevent ethnic discrimination, prevent class discrimination, etc.) and promote continuing education through formal and informal systems.

Barriers to education in Eritrea include traditional taboos, school fees (for registration and materials), and the cost barriers of low-income households.[9]


Statistics suggest that between 39 and 57 percent of school-aged children attend primary school and 21 percent attend secondary school.[1] Student-teacher ratios are high: 45 to 1 at the elementary level and 54 to 1 at the secondary level.[1] There are an average 63 students per classroom at the elementary level and 97 per classroom at the secondary level.[1] Learning hours at school are often less than four hours per day.[1] Skill shortages are present at all levels of the education system, and funding for and access to education vary significantly by gender (with dropout rates much higher for girls) and location.[1]

The overall literacy rate in Eritrea is estimated to be about 67.8 percent, with young adults aged 15–24, 89 percent literate.[10][11] "The Ministry [of Education] plans to establish a university in every region in the future."[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Eritrea country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (September 2005). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Asfaha, Yonas Mesfun; Jeanne Kurvers; Sjaak Kroon (2006). "Literacy use and instruction in multilingual Eritrea". Leeds African Studies Bulletin.
  3. ^ "Eritrea" (PDF). World Data on Education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. September 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  4. ^ Scuola coloniale eritrea (in Italian)
  5. ^ Nicky Di Paolo: "La Scuola di Medicina di Asmara" (in Italian)
  6. ^ "Young Eritreans Would Rather Risk Death at Sea Than Let Their Leaders Take Their Freedom". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  7. ^ Baseline Study on Livelihood Systems in Eritrea (PDF). National Food Information System of Eritrea. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-21. Retrieved 2014-10-18.
  8. ^ a b Habtetsion, Efrem (2006-08-03). "On Developing Higher Level of Education". Archived from the original on 2006-08-30. Retrieved 2006-08-03.
  9. ^ Kifle, Temesgen (April 2002). Andreas Knorr; Alfons Lemper; Axel Sell; Karl Wohlmuth (eds.). "Educational Gender Gap in Eritrea" (PDF). Berichte aus dem Weltwirtschaftlichen Colloquium der Universität Bremen. Institute for World Economics and International Management. 78.
  10. ^ Eritrea. CIA World Factbook
  11. ^ Eritrea. World Bank

External links[edit]