Eritrea: 'Aim for the Moon - If You Miss, You Will Land Among the Stars'

14 September 2021
interview

Rufta Arefaine and Rahel Zewengiel, both members of the 34th round of National service, attended their 12th grade classes at Warsay-Yekealo Senior Secondary School in Sawa. Before leaving for Sawa, Rufta studied at Dembe-Sembel Secondary School while Rahel studied at Keyih-Bahri Comprehensive Secondary School in Asmara. They see Sawa as a haven of harmony among students from across the nation and a center of perseverance. These outstanding students are confident they would complete their higher education with distinction. The common idea they share about Sawa is that Sawa is unique in everything; it is a big social, academic and physical center of education. Rufta scored 4.0 GPA with straight 'A' in eight subjects she took in the matriculation exam, while Rahel scored 3.8 GPA. Here is an excerpt of an interview conducted with them.

How does it feel to study in Sawa?

Rufta

Sawa is a place for sharing ideas and transfer of skills. How you feel about studying in Sawa depends on your mindset. For me, life in Sawa is not challenging and at the same time everything is not smooth. The experience you have in Sawa is a mixture of challenges and ease.

Rahel

Education in Sawa enabled me to be self-reliant. It is a center where individuals think independently and entertain their own ideas.

What are the challenges and advantages of studying in Sawa?

Rahel

Studying far away from home for the first time is challenging. On the other hand, the challenge you may encounter in Sawa is a life changing experience. Time management is what I learned from my stay in Sawa and everything is done as planned. Sharing experiences is a blessing and a turning point in one's life time. It is a perfect school for learning life skill. It is a place where one could strengthen social interactions with students from across the nation. Sawa teaches us perseverance and enables us to become strong in everything. No matter what the challenge is, the grand goals we intend to achieve are always the priorities.

What are the things you experienced during your stay in Sawa?

Rufta

Social interaction is what I uniquely enjoyed in Sawa. I learned about how to deal with tough and easy going people. I learned a lot from both ends. It makes one come out stronger and capable to combat any challenge.

Rahel

Training is what makes one competent and versatile. I learned a lot from fellow students. We all have strengthened our social interactions. The relationship we have built with people we would otherwise not have been acquainted with in our life time had we not gone to Sawa is the biggest of all. The friendship we have built with students from all regions of the country is quite amazing and Sawa made it possible.

What was your attitude before you left for Sawa?

Rufta

I had no preconceived thoughts about Sawa. I just wanted to experience things through seeing or living in the condition. I chose to deal with the situation with flexibility. Above all, education and discipline go in parallel. I believe a successful student is the result of good upbringing, and the credit goes to my parents. One has to excel in education for his/her own satisfaction first and for his/her family later, as well as for the benefit of the country and to use the accumulated knowledge for global benefit.

Rahel

Education is a priority for me. I believe the one who faces demanding tasks is always capable of dealing with bigger challenges. Our approach to difficulties is determined by the exposure we have to difficulties. What I learned in Sawa is that everybody has limitations. It is hard to be all-knowing. Individuals may have unique qualities in solving matters but at the same time, they are dependent on one another. We can see this from an anecdote.

There were a doctor and a swimmer. The doctor always brags about his knowledge and quite often undermines and humiliates the swimmer. But, there was a time for the doctor to understand his limitations. He was about to drawn while swimming and requested the help of the swimmer. "You are all-knowing and capable of doing everything, and so why don't you try to spare your life," was the answer of the swimmer. This story teaches us nobody is capable of doing everything alone for there are times we ask for help. So, Sawa is a place for win-win cooperation among students and this experience will last a lifetime. Studying together and dealing with challenges together is what has moved me. This is the attitude I now have about Sawa.

How about your schooling?

Rufta

I was very competitive at school. I followed the footsteps of my elder brother. I'm a member of the 34th round of National Service and studied my 12th-grade classes in Warsay-Ykealo Secondary School. Our teachers in Asmara taught us all the 12th-grade subjects and studying in Sawa, for me, was a revision.

How was the moment when you heard your matriculation exam results?

Rufta

I was reading a book. One of our dorm mates came in and told us that exam results had been posted in our cafeteria's noticeboard. Even though I was confident about the result I would get, the fact that matriculation results determine one's future educational career made it a little bit worrisome. I was not able to continue the reading because my attention was taken by the news of the announcement. I started to hear some competitor classmates scored full marks and some got diploma results. The students were overcrowded to see their results and amidst this, I read that I scored straight 'A' in the eight subjects I sat for the matriculation exam and I immediately texted my parents about the result.

How was your parents' response?

I was not able to say more than texting to my dad saying "I got straight 'A's."

What would you like to say to female students?

Rufta

When we speak about women, we need to understand that our mothers managed to overcome unimaginable hurdles and they made everything possible. What we experience today as women is quite little and insignificant. We are provided with all kinds of opportunities and everything is now easy. No matter how challenging the situation is there is a way out and everything is manageable and attainable. My ambition in education is limitless. I vow to myself to score higher marks in my studies and planned to transcend the limit. I have to score full marks and go beyond. "Aim for the moon; if you miss, you will land among the stars." The female students need to have grand goals and they will definitely succeed in what they aspire to achieve. We should not limit our ambitions and everything is just the result of what we aimed to accomplish.

What is your future plan?

Rufta

I have not yet decided in what field I would study. However, I am more inclined to engineering departments. I would like to work in both software and civil engineering and I am eager to see the result that came from blending the two fields. The courses we would attend in the first year will help me decide a better field.

Rahel

I am looking forward to joining college and I have already planned to study law. Defending the defenseless is what satisfies me most. Working for peace and security and becoming a motivational speaker is my dream. Working for the respect of women's rights is also one of my biggest goals.

Thank You Rufta and Rahel; we hope to see you join college.

We also thank you

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