From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Jan 30 2009 - 04:47:06 EST
A second chance at education for children in Eritrea
By Miriam Mareso
JENGERJIBA, Eritrea, 29 January 2009 - Halima, a shy 11-year-old, is
among the first groups of children who have been enrolled in a new
elementary school in Jengerjiba. A small village located 110 kilometres
from the capital Asmara, Jengerjiba is dotted with mud huts and concrete
houses. The closest primary school is more than 10 kilometres away, a
distance which has long hampered access to primary education for many
UNICEF, working with the Eritrean Ministry of Education, has given
children in Jengerjiba a chance at an education. In 2005, the two
organizations pooled resources to create Complementary Elementary
Education (CEE), an initiative that reaches out to children who have
been neglected by the existing formal school system for a variety of
CEE has supported the construction of the small elementary education
centre in the village where Halima and her siblings now take classes.
Based on a three-year educational cycle, CEE provides out-of-school
children with basic competencies that Eritrean school children acquire
in the five-year mainstream elementary curriculum. A locally-led
practical response to educational shortcomings in the region, the
programme has since expanded to other districts.
CEE is currently bringing education to over 5,000 girls and boys in more
than 70 centres in remote villages such as Jengerjiba. The programme
also encourages the participation of local communities in their own
Hopes and ambitions
Unlike her older brothers and sisters, who at her age had no education
opportunities in the village, Halima only needs to walk a few hundred
metres to reach the school, where students are taught basic literacy and
numerical skills, as well as classes in their native languages, English
and science. Perhaps most importantly, the children are learning to
articulate hopes and ambitions that stretch beyond the modest centre and
its stone walls.
"We hope to complete our education, teach our families and one day
become doctors," Halima says with a timid smile.
Successful completion of the programme will allow Halima and her friends
to be integrated into the formal education system at the post-primary
level. In 2008, the first 19 graduates from the programme in the
Northern Red Sea region were mainstreamed into formal secondary schools.
A hopeful path
CEE is supporting the first steps of these girls along a hopeful path
that will empower their futures as literate women and skilled
professionals. By 2009, UNICEF plans to supply the schools with benches
and educational materials.
As one of the village elders points out, the school has become 'a
gateway from darkness' for the community: "We established this school
thanks to the support we received from UNICEF. We expect to see it grow
and host a bigger number of students, because lack of education makes
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