Eritrea: Empowering the Youth Through Vocational Schools

1 September 2021

Sawa Center for Vocational Training (SCVT) has been training students in various technical fields for the last 14 years. At the beginning, the center trained students for one year at a certificate level in the fields of electricity, drafting, surveying and building. The curriculum has been reviewed and improved over the last eight years. The number of fields of specialization has increased and the one-year certificate program has been upgraded to a two-year certificate program with a focus on giving students hands-on experience in their fields of specialization.

Considering the importance of the training programs in enhancing the human resources base of the nation and the relevance of the training programs to the country's development plans, the Government has invested over 16 million USD for the purchase of modern training equipment.

The students at SCVT have been encouraged to work in innovative works and their ingenuity could be seen at the exhibitions that are annually staged as part of their senior technical work presentations in their respective fields.

Some students feel they should have been given diploma instead of certificate as they have studied for two years. But Mr. Negasi Kifle, director of Building Construction Technology 01, is of the opinion that the courses being offered at the center strictly follow standards set for practical and science courses. He said that most of the time, a diploma course in the science stream takes three years to complete whereas the courses provided at SCVT cover 60 credit hours that should be covered in four semesters in a period of two years and, therefore, the award of certificate is justified.

Mr. Negasi further said that for many students the certificate level courses have been a short path for what would have been achieved in 20 years. The students have been very keen to attend the courses and they have always been ready to achieve more in their future career. There would be an incentive for those who are passionate to continue their studies at a diploma level because they have already covered the needed credit hours.

The outbreak of Covid-19 might have been a setback for the teaching and learning process all over the nation as schools were closed down for a year. But, Mr. Negasi said, the fact that SCVT is a boarding schools and there was no contact with other areas of the country that were under partial lockdown, the training at SCVT was given without any interruption, a rare advantage for the students to complete their studies in the set out time frame.

SCVT gives financial and material support to students in need, and the Ministry of Education has been providing educational materials at the needed time.

To give students extensive access to reading materials, the center opened a digital library. The well-trained teachers were also working hard to enable students have good knowledge in the subject matter.

According to teachers and the administration of SCVT, the overall competence of the students at the center is remarkable. All the students meet the set standards and most of them have graduated with good results while some demonstrate exceptional excellence. What is more, the participation of female students at SCVT has been increasing every year. They have increasingly been becoming more competitive with their male counterparts and they excel in some fields. Despite their few number compared to the number of male students, the female students have been resolute in their studies which is obvious in the number of females who graduate with distinction. At the 12th commencement, for instance, out of the nine students that scored full marks, five are females.

Elim Ghirmai and Saron Mihreteab, graduates at the 12th commencement, scored four marks in four semesters. Saron studied electronics and graduated with very great distinction. She said that her father is a technician and what she learned from him inspired her to study electronics. Elim, on her part, said that her father is an engineer and she decided to study surveying due to her father's influence. The two outstanding students said the center enabled them to become versatile and created ample opportunities for social interactions that led to strong relationships.

Upon graduation students have been assigned to work in the development of infrastructure such as the construction of dams and roads, electricity, agriculture, maintenance of electronic devices, refrigerators and air conditioners, plumbing, auto mechanics, computer maintenance and networking, drafting and surveying. Although graduates of SCVT have been leaving their finger prints on development projects across the country, some have not been working in their fields of specialization. Mr. Negasi said that the huge expenses being made to equip the students with the needed knowledge would only be productive when the graduates are assigned to work in fields of their competence and the center is working hard for a better result.

The training center has been making remarkable progress and what the students like most about the center is the comprehensive and special courses that have transformed their lives. The number of workshops at the training center have increased over the years, from five to 23, to accommodate more trainees and to provide trainees with spacious room for practice.

Representative students from the six regions of the country annually visit the center to witness the huge investments made in expanding the workshops and enabling students to acquire technical skills in a variety of fields. More and more students have now been showing interest to join the center and benefit from its life changing experience. Mr. Negasi said that the doors of the center are always open for interested students.

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