As part of my job, I have traveled to Sawa and stayed there for one week with the students of Warsay Yikealo Secondary School, members of the 36th round of national service. The school is a national school which was opened primarily to offer 12th-grade education to all students, from all over the country, that have completed 11th grade and prepare them for the national matriculation exam. The school also contributes toward nation-building by creating a platform that allows Eritrean youth with varied backgrounds to come together and know and appreciate one another’s culture.
Warsay Yikealo Secondary School has this year received more than 17 thousand students who came, 49.9% of whom are women, from 100 secondary schools located in different parts of the country. They have completed first semester classes and are now having their semester break. During the semester break, the students engage in contests, including sports, cultural performances, and academy. In the evening hours, veteran freedom fighters take turns to go to different units to share their experience and give the students advice and lessons on the history of Eritrea.
The youth are considered the greatest asset of Eritrea, a vital resource whose future is inextricably tied to the country. The enormous investment Eritrea has been making in education and health is made to have educated and healthy youth that can contribute enormously to the security and prosperity of the nation. A nation cannot have a secure future without educated, healthy and responsible youth. The development and security of any country depends on the vitality and conduct of young men and women.
On a hot Monday evening, I went to see my young sister. When I reached her unit’s site, I could not find her. I waited until her colleagues found her standing in front of the dormitory. I was watching the many young girls reading, playing, chatting, washing, hair braiding and so on. When I noticed a group of girls sitting under a big lemon tree, I decided to approach them to satisfy my curiosity. A young confident girl responded to my question about what they were doing. “We are a cultural group of our unit and we are working on a drama that reflects the principle of ‘unity in diversity’ of Eritrea. We are now learning how to greet in nine languages of Eritrea.” Sawa is a melting pot that eliminates differences and fosters national unity and understanding.
Eritrea is a multilingual and multiethnic country, and one of the founding principles of the government has been uniting the people that come from diverse cultures. The government is known to chart out and implement policies that foster national unity while respecting cultural diversity. National Service and Sawa are the greatest national institutions that enable citizens to remain connected by shared participation in national issues. They have created a wider sense of “we”. Eritrean nationalism is free from both internal and external forces that can drag it back to sub-national identities. During the colonial era, the colonizers tried to instigate ethnic and religious conflicts among the people. Nonetheless, the people of Eritrea were never ensnared by this subterfuge and have always believed ethnic/religious diversity is a source of strength and beauty to Eritrean nationalism.
The Eritrean society has a deep respect for and high expectations from its youth, and many Eritrean proverbs reflect this. For instance, in the Tigre ethnic group, there is a proverb that goes, “Country and sword coexist, and they both live on the shoulder of the youth.”
I went to Sawa along with a team of presenters affiliated with a variety of governmental organizations traveled to Sawa to share their knowledge and experiences with the young men and women in Sawa. The team which included Dr. Halima, a former student of the Revolution School who now works at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Hamenur Idris, a war-disabled veteran currently working at the Eritrean War Disabled Veterans Association, Mr. Mesfin Tesfay, a former journalist at Dimtsi Hafash who is now working at the documentation center, and other colleagues. I gave presentations on the role of youth in the struggle for national development.
The youth make up a very significant segment of society, and their role can determine the success or failure, victory or defeat, progress or decline of any country. Eritrean youth have been playing their due role in the social, cultural, economic, and political life of the society. The Eritrean revolution succeeded largely by the blood and sweat of the thousands of young men and women revolutionaries. Similarly, after independence, the Sawa generation has saved the country from various dangers.