EUDC on Education as ratified in its Political Program - Feb 2015
Education is one badly hit under the PFDJ regime to the extent that we lost the one and only university in our country. All other colleges opened under the PFDJ where tailored to satisfy the oppressing machinery of the regime. There is no situation that encourages our students to go for higher or further education. In fact there was time when students were intentionally failed so that they do not go to the so called “National Service”.
Students who were deprived to fulfill their dreams in their beloved country are now joining universities in the Sudan, Ethiopia and far away across the globe. Lack of qualified teachers added with the fact that they cannot plan for their future have resulted in a very weak educational standard. The fact that the Ethiopian universities entrance exam lowered specifically for Eritreans shows how the standard of education has deteriorated in the country.
EUDC believes that first and foremost it has to be constitutionalized that citizens, without the interference of the government are the decision makers of their own destiny and their future. It is only then that we can raise citizens’ self-esteem and it is only then that we can start a real capacity building. At the moment our young people are fleeing the country in their droves. We can only reverse the push and pull factor by paving a bright future and demonstrating that staying in the country would be more rewarding that longing an alien country.
The traumatic history of Eritrea is a consequence of the successive foreign occupations that the country was subjected to since its emergence as nation state. Colonialism curved out Eritrea’s political boundaries and thereby contributed most to its diversity, while it thwarted Eritrea’s traditional direction and the ‘natural’ pace of growth.
Formally, Eritrea has nine languages - (in alphabetical order): Afar, Arabic, Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Saho, Tabadawie, Tigre and Tigrinya. There are no credible demographic figures to show the exact number of each, but it is widely believed that Tigrinya is the Lingua-Franca - commercial tongue.
Had Eritrea been monolingual there wouldn’t have been communication problems, be it in business, public administration, education and so on, and subsequently, government policy on languages would have been uncalled for. The first tangible language policy in Eritrea was articulated in the constitution of 1952. In view of the dramatic national and global changes that have taken place during the 63 years to date it may warrant opening the language issue once more. Evidently, the language policy of PFDJ government in Asmara is suffocating both national unity and social harmony in the country.
Our organization strongly believes that it is imperative for the PFDJ dictatorship to be removed and that a democratically elected national parliament is in place for us to acquire a sound language policy. In this respect, we in the EUDC, maintain the idea that the stipulations of the 1952 constitution were more prudent and inclusive than the one ratified in 1997, be it defunct.
Although it is ultimately the task of future proper parliament, we at the EUDC will continue to press for Tigrinya and Arabic to be the official languages of government. We see that all Eritrean languages are equal. Local ethnic or multi-ethnic federal administrations (governments) can decide whether or not to use their respective local language as a working language for their local government dealings.
Researchers of language policy seem to agree that there is a direct correlation between proficiency in the dominant language and the enhancement of the social status and political power of the speakers of that language. As it happens, while in theory all the nine Eritrean languages are equal in status, in reality, PFDJ for its own sinister reasons happen to suppress the Arabic language which has never been for the interests of the Tigrigna people. if we take for example the Sawa Military Training Camp, (to which everyone between 18 and 40 years Eritrean must go) provides its training almost exclusively in Tigrinya – and so does the “Serving the Truth” mouth piece of the regime with a little bit of cosmetic changes.
Considering Eritrea’s meagre resources, it is vital that the debate on language policy be conducted in honest and transparent manners by allowing as many citizens as possible to take part directly, through the mass media and most importantly in the Eritrean parliament.
At this juncture it is important to stress that Eritrea is multilingual and government policies will be indispensable. Language is indeed linked (to various degrees) to citizens’ rights, identity and political clout or influence. My organization fully believes that sound language policy debate must start among us.
Eritrean Unity for Democratic Change believes that the PFDJ education and language policy has to be scrapped all-together and a new progressive and inspiring policy need to be designed. Education, religion and language each must have independent policy not that one dependent of the other.
According to our political program all primary schools will be mandatory and all high school education will be free to all nationals. Higher and further education will be provided each according to the government’s financial and human resources capability. All education curriculums should be tailored in a way that serves the current and future socio-economic and political demand and necessity of the nation. Both Tigrigna and Arabic will of official working languages not only on paper but in all official dealings.