[dehai-news] unicef.org: A second chance at education for children in Eritrea

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Jan 30 2009 - 07:56:25 EST

A second chance at education for children in Eritrea

By Miriam Mareso

JENGERJIBA, Eritrea, 30 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 local children.

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 reasons.

Locally-led response

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 development

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

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 people blind."


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