Only 29 females out of 527 T.T.I. graduates
What is the problem?
By Kidane Eyob, 26 Aug 2003 reported on 4th August 2003 ‘T.T.I Graduates tenth batch of teachers’. In this news report I was very disappointed to learn that out of 527 graduates of the Teachers Training Institute (T.T.I.) there are only 29 females. The problem is therefore inequality between men and women in higher education and therefore employment.

This is a great loss to Eritrea for failing to benefit from the full participation of the greater percentage of its human resources in nation building. This is also morally, socially and politically unacceptable by any standard in the 21st century.

As we all may remember, during the liberation struggle for independence, 30% of EPLF freedom fighters were women. After 12 years of independence, one would normally expect to see the inequality gap between men and women to narrow down to a more acceptable figure, say 60% men, 40% women, in higher education and employment.

By 2011 the percentages should be in equilibrium with women exceeding in some sectors of industry. For example, within the teaching and healthcare professions I would normally expect the population of females to exceed that of males. But it seems exactly the opposite development has taken place at least as far as the T.T.I graduates male to female ratio is concerned.

When we should be speeding up in ‘4th gear’ to ensure equality between men and women, instead we have shifted into reverse gear!

What are the solutions and what can the GOE, MOE, the Women’s and Youth Associations and caring individuals do to professionally and comprehensively address this unjust inequality between men and women in higher education and employment?

As a caring Eritrean and not as an expert, I will attempt to highlight the problem and suggest solutions which may help alleviate some of the existing inequalities between men and women.

However, before attempting to discuss the possible solutions to the problem, it’s crucial that the main causes to the problem is identified.

In my opinion, the main causes to the problem of inequality in higher education and particularly in the case of T.T.I. recruits are as follows: -

School dropouts - more girls tend to dropout from school compared to boys hence a smaller percentage complete secondary school for example only about 21% of those siting for 12th grade matriculation on 29th August to 1st September 2003 are female.

Matriculation Failures - a very small percentage of girls are currently passing the secondary school multiple choice only national examination hence most of the females do not get the required entry grades to any of the higher education institutions.

Failure to complete national service - all students must go to Sawa after secondary school completion to carry out their military training before they are allowed to join any higher education institution when they achieve the required entry grades. The national service is carried out after graduation.

Lack of incentives - there are no attractive incentives to the teaching profession at present. In fact the long hours and inadequate pay are becoming deterrents. Teachers seem to have even lost the respect they once earned from their students and the society as prominent professionals.

Language of Instruction - the language of instruction in elementary schools in Eritrea is mother tongue. Elementary school education is instructed in nine different national languages all over Eritrea.

What are the solutions to this problem?

In my opinion the following solutions could help us alleviate the aforementioned causes of inequality in higher education respectively.

Reform the education system - include teachers, parents, students and experts in the field during the reformation process, which was beneficial when writing our constitution.

I suggest an education system of as discussed in my article in January 2003 archive and in March 2003. ( Means One year kindergarten for 4 year olds, six years elementary from Azile to 5th grade as from the ages of five instead of seven, three years junior 6th to 8th grade and four years secondary 9th to 12th grade.

(Both Junior and secondary school suggestions have been taken on board by the MOE in the new curriculum being introduced)

Establish a system of continuous assessment and identify students’ strengths and weaknesses and carry out the appropriate corrective actions and improvement measures. Instil a culture of continuous improvement in all aspects of the education system.

Those students who fail their matriculation for the first time should be allowed to repeat the academic year and get a second chance in an effort to achieve the required higher education entry grades.

Furthermore, abolish the multiple choice only matriculation and replace with a new national examination at 12th grade composed of all types of questions including descriptive, definitions, objective, multiple choice and essays.

Defer national service until after graduation and the age of 22. Those students who pass matriculation and get the required entry grades to any higher education institution should go to Sawa after graduation, which is about the age of 22 years.

This will not only be a good incentive to work harder and perform better in exams but the country benefits more from more mature, trained and skilled young adults when carrying out national service compared to unskilled and untrained school leavers.

Review pay and working conditions of teachers - Teachers are generally underpaid and overworked almost all over the world.

The pay and working hours are even worse in Eritrea.

We review and change the academic calendar year, working hours and pay. I suggest three terms of three months duration with two weeks break in between (around New Year and early April) and a shorter summer holiday of about 8 weeks during July and August. Working hours to be from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (with an hour lunch break) instead of 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. Morning shift of students from 8:00 am to 12:00 and afternoon shift from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Five lessons of 45 min. each with 15 min break in between.

Review pay annually and provide free housing to those teachers who are prepared to teach in the remote regions of the country. Finally establish a joint contribution pension scheme for all teachers and MOE professionals as well as allowing flexible and sufficient maternity and paternity leaves.

Use a common language of instruction - Eritrea and South Africa are the two countries in Africa experimenting with mother tongue elementary education as recommended by some experts in education and child psychology.

Recruiting teachers in all the nine national languages in Eritrea can be very challenging indeed especially if most of the population in the remote rural areas has been denied education for the last several decades. The training of teachers in all the nine languages can also be very demanding and very expensive compared to a common language of instruction in a country.

I suggest we abolish mother tongue education and use English as a language of instruction in elementary schools just as we currently do from junior secondary (6th grade) to university education and teach mother tongue as a subject with Tigrinya and Arabic being compulsory subjects for all.

I am certain Eritrean experts in education systems and curriculum and those in the teaching profession who are either keeping low profile or only writing about politics could write more comprehensive articles with possible effective solutions which will benefit the professionals in the MOE and influence those in authority to carry out the appropriate reform of our education system. An education reform which will raise the standard of education, guarantee equal opportunity, speedup the reconstruction process, enhance social justice and ensure an improvement to the standard of living of our people.

My next article part 8 in the series of ‘Reform the Education System to’ will be posted in September and will be about university education system particularly 1st year university and how we could reform it to enhance the existing system.

Glory To Our Martyrs
Victory To The Masses

Thank you
Kidane Eyob.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Kidane Eyob, who is solely responsible for the contents of this page, contributes the above article. For any comments, the writer can be contacted by e-mail: