Modern Education Development, Challenges and Current State in Eritrea (1839 to 2016)


Pt. 1b Education during the Italian fascism period

Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane

After the rise of Italian fascism the number of students went into decline and most missionary schools which provided education for local people were closed down. According to Bairu (2016, page 23) the Italians considered, with justification, the Evangelical School a training ground for anti-fascist Eritrea; consequently, they frequently threatened to close the school.

Bairu (2016, page 23) adds that during the Italian colonial period Eritrean were not allowed to study further than the fourth grade, this policy was based on the Italian assumption that Eritrean children were too perceptive to be provided with the dangerous privilage of modern education

Furthermore the Italian government introduced a law that the highest level of schooling for Eritreans was the fourth grade and no Eritrean was allowed to advance beyond the 5th elementary class whereas in the Somalia the highest level of schooling for Solamli children was grade 7.

According to ( Abdi, Ali A, 1998) in the case of Somalia, as elsewhere in the colonized world, a grade 7 education was apparently sufficient for administrative and low-level technical duties assigned to the natives. The type and the level of education that should lead to critical citizenship and social analysis would have been a danger to the longevity of colonialism, and apparently, colonizers were not unaware of that.

.Similarly in Eritrea during the Italian fascism period only 6 out of the 25 schools for Eritreans provided basic literacy and vocational training up to 4th grade apart from the Scuola Vittoria Emmanuel in Asmara. The Scuola Salvago Ruggio in Keren offered two year courses for the children of some of the privileged Eritreans or balabat.The education of Eritrean males was explicitly designed to train them for agriculture and military functions, to be soldiers, telegraph operators, clarks, typist, and girls for domestic roles [Gottesman, Les 76).

During the Italian fascism period the highest-level institution was the Italian Lyceum "Ferdinando Martini" in Eritrea's capital, that was founded in 1926 and in 1935 was named "Liceo Scientifico" (while in 1937 the name was changed to "Liceo Classico") with nearly all the students coming from the Italian community of Asmara source researchomnia.blogspot.co.uk, 2016.

Teachers of Liceo Martini in 1939

source researchomnia.blogspot.co.uk

As a consequence of the Italian discriminatory policy on education most missionary schools which provided education for local people were closed down by 1932, as can be seen from the above table 1the number of schools decine from 47 to 3 and the number of students from 1018 to 207 which caused thousands of Eritreans to flee to Ethiopia and Sudan for education. Amongst those who crossed the frontier for education was Blaten Geta Lorenzo Taezaz who was frustrated by the humiliation and racial discrimination in the hands of Italians and a bleak future in his homeland, left for Ethiopia in 1925 after completing the 4th grade education given by Italians in Eritrea(Daniel Kindie, 2012), Issayas Gebre Igziabiher (Lt. General Issayas Gebre Igziabiher).  He graduated from Swedish Mission School went to Ethiopia in the late 1920s to pursue his education. Another was Belta Ephraim who represented Ethiopia at the League of Nation and the United Nations, and became Ethiopian Minster of Agriculture (Pankhurst, 1953 ).  

Lorenzo who received his primary education at the Italian schools in Asmara and Keren, started his career with the Italian colonial administration when he was still very young. He went to Addis Ababa in 1924 and subsequently, Ras Teferi Mekonnen arranged for his education, and along with other Ethiopians, he sent him to France on a government scholarship. Lorenzo spent the next eight years at the University of Montpelier where he completed his studies in Law and Philosophy. Dawit Ogbazghi who also crossed the frontier into Ethiopia became vice-governor of Addis Ababa , etc.

Among other Eritreans who moved to Sudan were the father of General Aman Andom to study at the American School in Khartoum; Sheikh Ibrahim Mukhtar to be a student at the Omdurman Institute and Al-Azhar to be the first Mufti in Eritrea in 1924?, Gilamichael Bahta who studied law in Khartoum with Aman Andom  etc.

.As part of the Italian discriminatory policy on education, in November 1941 the Asmara School of Medicine was opened not for native but for Italian students who passed the final year of the Italian high school.  This school  was recognized by the University of Rome and the Italian students who passed the final year of the Italian high school were eligible to be enrolled in the school. The number of years for completing the training was six years

The objectives of this medical school was:

Generally, the late 19th century should be noted as a period of transformation in education from the traditional religious education into the modern educational system which contributed considerably to the fast growth of the intermediate intelligentsia. This took place in less than two decades after the defeat of Italian colonialism in 1941

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