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

Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane

Pt. 5d. The uncivilized culture of the Jebha and Shabia leaders' burning books.

It is worthwhile to mention briefly the uncivilized culture of the Jebha and Shabia which left a legacy to the PFDJ  of Burning of Holy Scripture (Bible) and other spiritual books. In 2004  holy books were collected and set on fire by government forces in broad daylight.

Historically, in 1976 and 1977 both the EPLF and ELF leaders committed similar crime as the Ethiopian rulers had. Example:  in 1963, all the school textbooks and other documents which had been written in Tigrigna were burnt [11], by the Ethiopian government. YohannesZeggai documented it as follows. “A greater part of the books, together with other documents, were burned in 1963 in the industrial oven of the matches factory in Asmara . The same took place at the ceramic factory. Private collections were also gathered and destroyed in similar fashion”(Negash , p10).

Similar to the Ethiopian rulers crime of burning books,  in 1976 by the order of EPLF leaders all the literature translated from Marxist works in to Tigrigna by Goitom Berhe (Bitsay), was burnt .  Goitom Berhe (bitsay), a law graduate of Addis Ababa. Goitom and his groups became target for “radicalism “and many of them were executed between 1976 and 1980s.

In reaction to the work of Goitom Berhe (Bitsay),  Haile Menkorias was instructed by Issayas to translate a number of Marxist works to tigringna. The writer of this document who was a member of the Information Department at Belekat and Zero in 1975/1976 recalls that when Haile Menkorias translated a number of Marxist works to tigringna (eg, State and Revoltion , The Communist Manifesto, what to be done, two step backward and one step forward and some of Mao works, the titles of which I cannot remember. We carried out the process of printing and packaging of the publications but we were not allowed to read them because we were ordinary members If someone tried to read Marx works they could be targeted in those days.Meharena Hadgu In his Menkae memory paper also recalls that anyone seen reading Marx, Lenin or Mao etc was seen suspiciously believing he will be a Menkae, that many stopped reading in fear. It was the ELF who held a weapon in one hand and a book in the other, unlike us. Many pretended to be uneducated because they were demoralized to what happened to those who read.

From 1976 to 1980 works such as The Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s  State and Revolution , Two Steps Backward and One Step Forward and some of Mao works were permitted  only to member of the EPLF’s secret party

In the 1970s the ELF leaders were not so innocent from burining literature. In 1978 the Tigre text -books which were prepared for school children within the ELF were also condemned and burnt after the ELF executive committee said that " teaching in Tigre was not our policy " (Negash, 1999: p.59)A history of Tigrinya literature in Eritrea : the oral and the written, 1890-1991 / (Negash, 2010)


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