October 31, 2017 was a happy day in Ghindae, some 35 miles north of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. That day, community members were laying the foundation for new classrooms.
Ghindae has only one school with 690 students, 7 teachers and five dilapidated classrooms. The GPE-supported program in Eritrea is helping the people of Ghindae to replace the old classrooms with new concrete ones. The program has also provided new textbooks, and trained the 7 teachers.
GPE support means more Eritrean children can learn
The GPE grant is providing similar support to 80 school communities in four districts. In total, 315 new classrooms are to be constructed. In addition, over 3 million textbooks have already been printed and distributed to all schools throughout the country. And 1,530 teachers have been trained. These results are already improving schooling for thousands of children, mostly in the poorest communities of the country.
One of the teachers I talked to in the Ghindae school said she was very happy that the training she received has improved her teaching skills. She said:
“With the new books and other materials, I can teach better and also can test how much the students have learnt.”
Social justice for all, including through education
People in the community, who were taking part in the school construction, were also appreciative of the support. The district education officer travelling with me said that reaching the most marginalized communities and ensuring communities are involved in school construction are core principles for the GPE-supported program. These principles are taking forward the Eritrea government’s effort to establish social justice for all communities in the country.
The program that GPE supports with a US$25.3 million grant, overseen by UNICEF, includes some innovative activities:
- Community-based school construction, as I witnessed during my visit, is a first innovation.
- District level planning is another. The new education sector plan that the country has developed is based on priority activities that the districts have identified.
- A third innovation is a new approach to education for nomadic communities. In this approach, the teachers will travel with the nomadic communities during the year and teach children along the way. These communities, living mainly in the Southern and Northern Red sea regions, move twice a year.
Overall, the GPE program has significantly contributed to the decrease in number of out-of-school children in the country. The latest progress report showed that 17,596 out-of-school children (of which 6,785 were girls) had been enrolled in school.
Eritrea has increased teacher salary and writing a new education sector plan. The country is preparing to apply for a new GPE grant in 2018, and our goal will remain to help the government of Eritrea reach all children throughout the country and ensure they can go to school and learn.