By Yosief Abraham Z.,
Established in 1958, University of Asmara (UOA) was the only hub for pursuing higher educational opportunities in Eritrea. In 2004, however, the Government of the State of Eritrea mandated a resolution to expand the opportunities of higher education in the country thereby to abridge the widely exaggerated difference between the demand for educated human resource and the limited capacity of Asmara University had to cater.
Thus, in the scholastic year of 2004-2005, seven higher education institutions established in different parts of the country and, soon, they began accomplishing their mission with the resources they had. And following to preliminary and later expanded analytical researches, the agricultural college was established in Hamelmalo, an area where the Anseba river bank is on its edge. By similar coin, to armor marine activities and to encourage experimental teaching opportunities, College of Marine Sciences and Technology was also established in Massawa. Other Colleges have also the same archives for reasons of their establishment in the place where they are now.
And following to the expansion of the Higher Education Institutions, yearly enrolment rate rose from 3-4 times and the total student population in all colleges tripled from 4.5 to more than 12 thousand. With this encouraging notion, the youth have been provided with improved opportunities for accessing higher education in comparison with the almost dwarfed opportunities Asmara University had to offer.
For ensuring the provision of the higher education opportunities, therefore, in October 2006, a Provisional Committee for the Coordination of Higher Education (PCCHE) was established under the auspice of the Office of the President with the Deans of all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as members. After identifying major activities to be carried-out in accordance with Eritrea’s education policy and its priorities, the Executive Director’s Office was also officially established in January 2008.
Similarly, the ephemeral Committee for the Coordination of Higher Education was then elevated to the National Board for Higher Education (NBHE) in October 2010. Chaired by the Minister of Education, the National Board for Higher Education also restated its additional mandates and consequently restructured at Commission level in January 2015. And with salient mission to promote higher education and facilitate the advancement of all HEIs, the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) is working diligently to make all the respective colleges centers of excellence in terms of education, research and public services.
Accordingly, with the aim of playing crucial roles in spearheading the building up of knowledge-driven economy in the country, the NCHE has specified guidelines thereby for promoting, coordinating and ensuring the development of Higher Education Institutions in the country. Hence, the NCHE makes continuous assessment, formulate and review the national policy concerning HEIs, among other mandates. And to attain subjective and objective aims—with ensuring the qualification of the system in its core—Executive Director Office of the Commission has three bureaus that execute and promote the responsibilities shouldered upon the managing governmental body.
The Bureau of Standards and Evaluation (BS & E) is one of the main branches which is mandated with promoting academic quality by setting specified parameters and, monitors, evaluates and accredits public and private Higher Education Institutions. In addition to this, for pushing the horizon of educational excellence, this bureau is also responsible for determining equivalency and transfer of credits of academic credentials from Higher Education Institutions outside the country.
As assuring the qualification of students is also part of its main pillars, the Bureau of Standards and Evaluation has been conducting and administrating national and international examinations. This year examination of the Eritrean Secondary School which was given from March 14 – 19 in various centers was, undoubtedly, one part of the assessment for further qualifications thereby to create balanced provisions between the educational centers and the potencies of the registered students.
In fact, to armor efforts for alleviating widely existed gap within the demand for well-educated human resources, the Commission for Higher Education has generated, compiled and distributed over 20 guidelines by aiming at installing uniformly governing procedures.
To consolidate such efforts, especially concerning sharing experiences among similar overseas educational bodies, more than 25 international linkages have been developed. And as results of these continuing endeavors, more than 340 junior faculty and lecturers have been given scholarships to pursue their Masters and PhD studies abroad thereby to beef up the human resources excellence of the Higher Education Institutions.
For not confining the golden educational opportunities only to the regular students, the National Commission for Higher Education has embarked on a distance programs at Masters Level to benefit those government employees. By the same coin, private homes are also encouraged to create similar conducive atmosphere with the guidelines and consultations of the Bureau of Standards and Evaluation of NCHE. In fact, many of the Higher Education Institutions have finalized their formative stages of development and thus started offering in Eritrea post-graduate post.
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At last, infrastructure development is also being done in some of these Colleges, and to excel the qualification of the educational centers, regular visits and consultations are part of the NCHE to assess the progress and constraints and to recommend for remedial measures to the government. While appreciating the NCHE for its constructive engagements, I express my deep appreciation to the performances of all College students who demonstrated prolific performances during the 7th Festival of Higher Education Institutions which was held from 24 – 27 March within the premises of the Eritrea Institute of Technology.