By Eritrea Compass,
A COUNTRY located at a strategic point where most of the worlds commercial goods and oil pass through everyday, its government and people not popular by the US for owning their own decisions and entangled in a quagmire of geo-political agenda.
In this article we aim to explore and on how the Eritrean government and people are working hand in hand to overcome the overall challenge, and the country’s diversification of the economy, its thriving mining industry, together with education, health programs, development, and the role of Eritrean youth and women.
The Eritrean people, since the dawn of independence, has spent three-quarter of the past 21 years in the battle against all acts of flagrant hostilities over its independence and sovereignty by the Administration in Washington, as well as the immeasurable military, economic, diplomatic and psychological warfare being waged unremittingly.
Despite all the obstacles, the Eritrean government since the days of armed liberation struggle has always looked inwards in building internal human capacity by adopting the policy of self-reliance. After independence this policy has continued leading to the exponential increase in Eritrean human capital formation that has been trained and retrained thereby acquiring vital experience amongst Eritrean youth who are responsible for the impressive development projects accomplished throughout the country.
The essential features that have been driving transformation in Eritrea have always been consolidated, which have been behind the success for independence and nation building.
– Unity and identity
– Dedication and sacrifice, a very dedicated tolerant hard working population
– High degree of mobilization and organization
– Decisive role of women
– Vision and leadership, a leadership with a pragmatic approach to development, and free of corruption.
The Eritrean government and its continuous efforts to establish a lean and clean, corruption free government institutions, has always been backed by the majority of the citizens along with continued resolve in aiding the government in all its endeavors to achieve social justice. This resonance has always been reinforced with the acknowledgment of the government, at one interview H.E. President Isaias Afewerki mentioned “There is no victory without its people, no development without its people, who triumphed decisively through their national unity.”
Thus nationalism and the notion of social justice along the Eritrean model with a progressive morality, that ensures in building the future especially the youth.
ERITREAN MINING AND ECONOMY:
In many instances natural resources have become a curse in many countries. One of the many interesting policy and dimensions in strategic approach of the Eritrean government after learning from the experiences of many countries as far as natural resources is concerned, is that the Eritrean governments view to the nascent mining industry should always be seen in relation to:
1./ The interest of the future generations, meaning that it does not belong to this generation, and thereby asserting time and time again so that it doesn’t become a curse to the country.
2./ Creation of systemic approach of integrating the natural resources and the dividends that are acquired from the national resources in to the national economy.
3./ Even though Eritrea is attracting foreign direct investment, the Eritrean government has entered 40 percent share with 10 percent free carried interest, and the rest 30 percent of the Eritrean government money, which is one way of trying to promote the interest of future generations on top of all the dividends that will be acquired at the end of the process.
4./ A Systemic approach for management that saw the establishment of an Eritrean mining corporation that overseas the overall natural resources, also overseas in to the overall management and interests to the Eritrean government.
5./ The sound environmental policy which is linked to environmental sustainability that is not risked, the proclamation to the land and environment issue, “The Exploitation of Natural Resources Act”
6./ Clear work environment for workers in the mining industry, and sustainable economic model for the local population avoiding the pitfalls of creating ghost towns at the end of the process.
Currently in Eritrea there are more than 22 mining companies operating and there are more to come, this is due to the fact that 67 percent of land on the agro ecology is sitting in some sort of mineral, especially base metals. The Eritrean economic growth is however not been achieved in the last 3-4 years as a direct result of the mining sector in particular, and not due to the dividends of natural resources, but rather the continued efforts of Eritrean government and people investment on food security, investment in human capital formation, investment in economic infrastructure, investment in manufacturing, and so on.
Mining in Eritrea is an important sector but will never be the driving sector of the economy. The Eritrean government is more focused in diversifying the economy to avoid the over dependence on one or two prime sectors and when conditions change for whatever reason the country should not be hit because of the dependence on one or two sectors. Therefore the importance of diversifying the economy is at heart of a sustainable and viable economic growth. Eritrea is trying to diversify the economy, be it in the agricultural sector, food security and the industries linked to it by means of import substitution, economic infrastructure, and tourism sector that is built on the pillars of domestic tourism, especially eco-tourism.
These being the essential features of the economy, the Eritrean government major accomplishments to date are the effective management of the road in diversifying the economy and making it sustainable.
Education in Eritrea is linked to Human Security, which is the human factor that is decisive, and depends up on the knowledge, skills, professional, and technical capabilities, and above all the attitude that leads to behavioral change. The other aspects of the human security that the Eritrean government is focusing as well as succeeding is water and food security, health security, and the human capital formation in order to assert the decisiveness of the human factor. Also the social security including local community service and responsibility, these are three other areas of the human security that are always seen in a paradigm together or in synergy with the other aspects water food security and environment security.
In relation to the human factor the center piece is cultural revolution, and the first thing that comes is the redefinition of a national educational system in the country, this is so to ensure the Eritrean people have easy access to the latest development of science and technology, participate meaningfully and in a responsible way and change their attitude and behavior. The redefinition of the national educational system along side the expansion of the system has been a significant development in Eritrea.
When Eritrea first got its independence in 1991 there were about 173,000 students throughout the country of whom about 40,000 were students in the liberated areas of the liberation struggle, which makes it under Ethiopian occupation only 130,000 students, and only 215 schools, and about 3000 teachers.
Currently Eritrea has an education system that has demographic distribution of the country in an average of two to three kilometers of basic education level throughout the country, and about 600,000 students at the school system leaving aside the higher education and the early education with over 16,000 teachers, in almost 5,300 schools.
Therefore this is the comparative situation of the education system development, off-course Eritrea has a long way to go in terms of challenges it face in terms of transforming the quality, much investment is done nowadays especially in the last 3-4 years to ensure the quality that saw the successful equitable solution of education in terms of access, continuity and relevance of education. Nonetheless the quality transformation is what is been given priority, together with the determination not only by the government but also by the people, by communities, by teachers, and even students are very much determined and committed.
The issue of human factor in relation to higher education is a key area in terms of human capacity creation in Eritrea that has been heavily invested in the last 10 years is the expansion of the higher education system. Eritrea had only the University of Asmara in the capital with an enrollment capacity of 3000 students between first and fourth year, and the average graduation rate was about 450-500 per year.
Currently Eritrea has a higher education system with the capacity of 14,000 students, and it has been decentralized to all the 6 regions of the country:
1./ Eritrea Institute of Science and Technology, which has three colleges under it (science, engineering, and technology) is located in the central region the town of Mai Nefhi.
2./ College of Business, Economics and Management Science is located in the southern region the town of Halhale.
3./ College of Marine Science and Technology is located in the northern Redsea region by the coast in the port city of Massawa.
4./ College of Humanities, Arts and Social Science is located in the southeast region in the town of Adi Keyih.
5./ College of Agriculture Technology and Agricultural Extension for the Anseba region which is located in the north west in the town of Hamelmalo, and another one being built in the west of the country.
6./ College of Nursing and Health Technology in the central region is located in the capital city of Asmara.
7./ Orotta School of Medicine, the faculty of medicine is the one serving the whole of the country, it produces surgeons, pediatricians, and other specialists in the capital city of Asmara. The school has been graduating doctors every year 31 in 2010, 32 in 2011, 48 in 2012, and 72 the following year. Already so far by the graduates the amount of doctors have been doubled in the country, and in the near future it is going to fall in the overall WHO standard Doctor to Patient, nonetheless Eritrea is already in the WHO standard of patient to nurse distribution.
In Eritrea the issue of human factor is also the issue of youth, Eritrea has got youth programs where secondary school students are involved in the environmental security linked to forestation and other things, Eritrea has also national service program, which aims in mobilizing the youth in all the developing programs throughout the country together with 6 months of military training. Overall the youth have took responsibility in all the different sectors, in terms of the nation building.
MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS (MDG):
As a base of comparison we can take the MDG, Eritrea is one of the three countries that are on track to achieving the millennium development goals, especially in health, water, education, sanitation and so on. The country has established basic systems especially in the public health system, Eritrea has been targeting the health of house holds in the public sector through inter sector actions and the targets have been immunization, child and maternal mortality, integrated management of child illnesses, and some of the major communicable diseases in the country.
The area that has been hailed so much is the health security; the demographic distribution of the public health system in the country has radically been transformed. Taking the rural areas as a benchmark, about 78 percent of the rural areas, a health service is available in less than 10 kilometers, or in another way it could be said more than 63-65 percent get a health service in less than 5 kilometers. One could imagine what this means in terms of health centers, health services, community centers, and hospitals.
Eritrea has reached immunization of 100 percent in polio, measles, meningitis. All the above have been completely eliminated including, tetanus, and measles have been eliminated in the last 10 years.
Eritrea has also reduced malaria incidents by 93 percent in most regions, about 67 percent in TB as a result of the roll TB program in the country. Maternal and child mortality for under 5 children has decreased by about 72 percent in the last 10 years. Also the decrease of HIV Aids from 4.2 percent to about 0.7 percent in the last decade. A lot can be said with numbers and statistics, but the idea is to provoke in to finding out for oneself, as the story is more interesting when you find it out for yourself.
The most important thing is in relation to the significant successes that Eritrea has achieved is that there are always novel initiatives being taken. There are health related programs, which are HIV, Malaria, STD, and TB program. What this means is that the way to promote health security is through integrated inter sectoral approach as it maximizes benefits and outputs. There is inter-sectoral collaboration, together with a great deal of participation by communities. There are committee’s up to the local level, and one interesting fact is that religious institutions from the top level, the leaders up to the grass root level and community level also have committees who are promoting health security and they work together with the national health security steering committee.
In addition to all the health initiatives, teachers in elementary school throughout the country have also been trained as health focal workers monitoring for signs of infections, dental problems, and other health issues that can be tackled early with a free prescription of a minor treatment that avoids the illness from spreading further requiring costly treatment or surgery in the future.
This has been hailed as a pioneering model for tackling health challenges countering the shortage of nurses and doctors; it also avoids major health challenges for the nation sparing extra resources that bleed the economy with the notion of healthy childhood leading to a healthy generation. The other significant development is also the construction of seven regional referral hospitals in different regions of the country.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN ERITREAN LIBERATION AND NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION:
The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) was established in 1979 as one of the mass organizations of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. In its current form, the NUEW is an autonomous non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the status of Eritrean women.
During Eritrea’s liberation struggle, NUEW succeeded in organizing and encouraging women’s participation in the war effort. Since independence in 1991, NUEW has continued to enhance the role of women by raising their political consciousness through literacy campaigns, credit programs, English language lessons, harmful traditional practices, and other skills training.
NUEW is administered by a headquarters office located in Asmara, as well as by regional offices located in all six zones. Membership numbers over 200,000 women. Sources of income include monthly membership fees, grants and projects, and fund-raising activities by members.
The part of women in liberation struggle and national development, is beyond a shadow of a doubt, that must be evaluated in terms of balanced relationships and women as fertile and productive element of the Eritrean society.
During Eritrea’s long and bitter armed struggle, women were obtained proper education that enabled them to work in factories that founded in the liberated lands and became certified professionals. Thus they were able to be pivotal in the history of women workers.
The strong motive that existed in the government to equip Eritrean women with modern technology and knowledge to facilitate productivity that is the principal driving force of national development. This has been possible by the significance of organizing women in solving cultural, political, economical, and social problems.
The NUEW seeks to ensure that all Eritrean women confidently stand for their rights and equally participate in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres of the country and share the benefits.
– The development of women’s confidence in themselves and respect for one another, and the raising of consciousness to ensure their rights in the political and legal systems;
– Laws that protect women’s rights in the family: entitlement rights and other civil laws;
– Equal access to education and employment opportunities: equal pay for equal work and equal rights to skills development to promotion;
– Improved access to adequate health care, paid maternity leave, and child care services;
– The eradication of harmful traditional practices that endanger women’s health and well-being;
– The reduction of poverty for Eritrean women and their families.
The NUEW campaigns include Mortality, Reproductive Health, Education, and female circumcision. They are also responsible for organising Seminars and workshops that range from:
- Gender Awareness
- Communication and Leadership Skills
- Women’s Legal Rights Literacy
- Women and Land Right
- Literacy Programs
- Reproductive Health
- Vocational Training
- Academic Crash courses
- Credit Program
- Horticultural Project
- Water and Donkey Project
- Handicrafts Project
- Additionally, an Emergency Support Project is in place to support victims of the war, especially women and children, by providing basic materials and counseling.
ERITREAN WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT:
In the national and regional assemblies, 30% of seats are reserved for women. Women compete against each other for the votes of both men and women. Women also run against men for the remaining 70% of seats.