In Eritrea our delegation had the chance to get first-hand impressions of how the country is developing socially and economically.
The state of education was a central topic. In that regard, GPE’s work was of particular interest to us because Germany has been financing the Global Partnership for Education since 2005 and will continue to strengthen its commitment.
The Global Partnership for Education strengthens education systems
To ensure quality education for all children, GPE focuses on building strong education systems, especially in the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the world. Nearly half of GPE’s partner countries are vulnerable and/or are affected by conflict.
The partnership brings together local education partners, who are mutually accountable. With GPE support, national education plans are developed and implemented to ensure effective teacher training, attain measurable learning outcomes and ensure all children get quality schooling, particularly those of marginalized groups.
Country ownership plays a key role in this context: government spending on education has to gradually increase to 20% of the national budget. This approach promotes self-responsibility and ensures long-term sustainability.
Visit to an Eritrean primary school
On day five of our Committee's trip, we set out in the morning from Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. A four-hour bus ride took us to Hagaz, a village close to Keren, in the center of the country.
In front of the Alamel primary school building, a small Eritrean delegation was waiting for us: UNICEF and ministry representatives as well as local actors and teachers accompanied our visit. Monira Hassen, a preschool teacher, also joined our group.
Our hosts explained to us, that in Eritrea the Government, in cooperation with local education partners brought together by GPE, has developed a plan focusing on education for all, better learning and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal for education (SDG 4).
Until Eritrea joined GPE six years ago, the country was dealing with a steadily decreasing primary education completion rate. That trend has since been reversed. Through the GPE’s work, education quality has improved significantly.
In 2017 alone, funding was provided for one million new text books, which are now available to Eritrean children in nine local languages. Mother-tongue learning material helps to reach children in disadvantaged areas and strengthen social cohesion.
In the school building, we were welcomed by a group of preschool children who were both timid and very curious to get to know us. On a large carpet, we saw different learning toys: building blocks, wood beads to string together, and large cubes. Some children were busy with jigsaw puzzles, while others were drawing and painting.
On the walls: a colorfully illustrated ABC poster and other teaching posters in local languages. Arabic characters colored by the children were hanging on a string tied across the room.
Early childhood education and care is an important cornerstone of learning
Eritrea primary schools educate children in grades 1 to 5. The Alamel school, however, is one of the few schools that has a preschool attached directly to the primary school. There the children are introduced to learning through play, and thereby prepared for subsequent schooling.
Crucial to cognitive development, early childhood education correlates directly with learning outcomes in higher school grades. With GPE support Eritrea was recently able to set up 75 additional preschool classes throughout the country and equip them with age-appropriate toys and learning materials. 40 more classes are to follow soon.
Preschool teacher Monira Hassen invited our group to join the play, and soon members of the German parliament squatted on the classroom floor to play or sat on children's stools absorbed in jigsaw puzzles.
Hassen is one of the approximately 800 Eritrean teachers and education coordinators who received further training in early childhood education and development standards. That is one of the interventions made possible by Germany and other GPE donor partners.
Girls' education is a strategic investment
Several weeks have gone by since our exchange with children and teachers at the Alamel primary school - but we won’t forget the openness of the preschool class and the children’s eagerness for learning. It reminded us of education's significance for personal development and the social relevance of learning.
Every additional year that a girl spends in school decreases the risk of teenage pregnancy by 10% and reduces the probability of child marriage. Generally, well educated, confident girls and young women become mothers later in life and give birth to fewer children than uneducated women.
Moreover, a good education increases the chances to successfully complete vocational training - for both girls and boys.
During our trip to the Horn of Africa, we were also particularly interested in seeing how education can promote democracy and peace. According to UNESCO, educated people are more likely to engage in democratic processes and exercise their civil rights.
Furthermore, every additional year of schooling that a young person completes, reduces the risk of conflict by approximately 20%.
We welcome Germany's growing commitment to GPE, not only with regard to Eritrea, where German support contributes to peaceful coexistence. GPE is the only multilateral development organization focused on strengthening national education systems to ensure a quality education for all children, in particular the poorest and most vulnerable.
With its support Germany contributes significantly to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide. This is why Germany has doubled its contribution to GPE in each of the last two years, attaining 37 million euro for 2019.