ERITREA: Salesian missionaries provide educational and social programs to help youth lead productive lives
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working in Eritrea since 1995 settling first in Dekemhare, a town roughly 40 km southeast of the capital city of Asmara. In 1996, the Eritrean government donated land to Salesian missionaries who brought education and social programs to the desert territory. New buildings and activities are being added every year, all focused on ensuring that the poorest youth in the region can gain an education.
The Don Bosco Center in Dekemhare provides 400 students free technical education every year. Thanks to the support of the government, students are able to access a meal for free while at school. The center also provides recreational activities for children and additional afterschool courses.
Since 2001, in collaboration with the Salesian-run International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS), the Don Bosco Center organizes refresher courses for teachers, both for those who teach at the center and those teaching at other technical schools across the country.
“Teachers are the backbone of the Salesian educational system, and we are dedicated to providing the support and training they need,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian teachers face many challenges educating poor youth. Many of their students have faced severe poverty and often have basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Some were previously living and working on the streets and others have faced war as child soldiers or become refugees in war torn communities. Salesian teachers meet these challenges head on, providing education and hope for a brighter future.”
Expanding their work in the country, Salesian missionaries have launched a second technical school in Barentu, an isolated area in need of development. The school will focus on youth most in need of an education and those who have abandoned their studies for early labor. Without an education, these youth risk exploitation and being relegated to the margins of society.
Salesian missionaries and VIS are also dedicated to fostering the development and autonomy of local communities by promoting the construction of water wells, a necessity due to drought and famine. Youth attending the technical schools are also trained to maintain and repair wells.
“Having access to clean water is essential for the health and safety of those we serve around the globe,” says Fr. Hyde. “Improving water facilities brings a sense of dignity for the children we serve and ensures students are learning in an environment that promotes proper hygiene and has safe drinking water. This reduces the number of waterborne illnesses that can affect those in our schools, keeping them away from important study time.”
The East African nation of Eritrea has a population of approximately 5.5 million, of which 69 percent are estimated to live in poverty, according to the World Bank. The small country has one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world. While agriculture contributes only 13 percent to the country’s economy it employs nearly 80 percent of the population. Only 12 percent of total land is suitable for farming because of Eritrea’s rocky and mountainous terrain, and in part, due to the persistent drought which impacts much of the remaining landscape.
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World Bank – Eritrea