Since breaking away from Ethiopia in 1993 Eritrea has remained a dictatorship under the rule of Isaias Afwerki. A new post in Human Right Watch by Laetitia Bader looks at the problems around Eritrea’s forceful national conscription, paying attention to the plight of teachers who are national service conscripts. Bader argues that East African leaders should call for rights reforms in Eritrea. In the article, Bader reports the ordeal of Eritrean teachers.
“I became what they wanted me to become; now I want to become my own person,” a 25-year-old former secondary school teacher in Eritrea told me explaining why he fled to Sudan in 2018.
Life as a public secondary school teacher across East Africa is tough, in Eritrea, hardship takes on a whole new meaning. Most teachers are national service conscripts. The government forces them into teaching, often posts them far from their homes to teach subjects in which they have little expertise, and makes them stay in these post for years, often indefinitely.
Most Eritreans ages 18 to 50, some younger or older, are forced into national service. They are placed on a conveyor belt into national service during their last year of secondary school at “Sawa”, a military training camp in the west of Eritrea near the border with Sudan. This August, as each year, thousands of Eritreans will be separated from their families and bused off to the remote, hostile Sawa. From there, they are forced into the military or – after college – a civil job.
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