Ciao Asmara

Keren, Eritrea

Keren grew around the Eritrean Railway to Asmara. The railway was later dismantled because of the war, although there are plans to rebuild it. Keren was the site of a key battle between Italian and British troops in February — March As of , Keren has a population of around , inhabitants. Residents belong to various, mainly Afroasiatic-speaking ethnic groups, of which the Bilen and Tigre peoples are predominant. The Tigrigna also have a presence.

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There is a short monsoonal wet season from June to September and a length dry season covering the rest of the year. Nonetheless, in the period between March and mid-June immediately before the wet season begins, afternoon temperatures still average over Teachers would take a stick and chase students out of classrooms and from behind walls, and herd them into line. The students loved the daily chase and excitement of it all. There was a constant escalation of tactics on both sides as the term progressed.

The teachers would begin to throw stones at the students, who would whoop and yell. Students would leap out of classroom windows and run behind the back of the class. Teachers would work in pairs, taking both sides of the classrooms to catch all the students. The daily grind The daily stress of work and its conditions compounded the poverty we all lived in. The low pay contributed to the demoralization of the teaching staff, all of who had children or parents to care for.

Their euphoria had quickly evaporated after Eritrea's independence when they realized what liberation really meant for them. Placing the blame They blamed the students' poor discipline on a number of things. Some said it was the history of revolting against the old rulers, and others that the economy was so devastated that there were no jobs for people with an education.

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Militarized education There was a highly centralized system of control, with no question of discussion. Violence had become such a part of the national psyche that some people weren't able to let go. Addicted to violence Once my friend Habtewolde, one of the teachers in the English Department, found two grade six students who had kidnapped a grade seven girl and were raping her in one of the old Ethiopian trenches. The first half is earnestly, callowly emphatic, riddled with bad metaphors, second-hand resentments and dubious facts. Those were days I dreaded stepping into the classroom. Self-reflection That night, I went for a beer at Arregai's and then walked home through the narrow streets of the souq and along the riverbed.

Many agreed it was because the way to prosperity in Eritrea didn't lie in education, but in whether you'd been a fighter with the EPLF — or not. This was certainly a problem. The whole education system was run by liberation front fighters, from the Minister of Education to the director of each school.

Some of the fighters deserved their positions — others did not. The ministry preserved the command-style system of management that they had used in the war, but which was unsuitable for civilian staff and civilian life.

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Militarized education There was a highly centralized system of control, with no question of discussion. Management was a matter of issuing orders. Many of the fighters had ill-disguised contempt for the teachers who were educated under the Ethiopian system.

Ciao to all that

They wore good clothes and were fluent in Amharic, danced to the tunes of Mahniud Ahrned and looked to Addis Ababa — not Asmara — as the cultural center of their lives. Exhaustion sets in The conditions in the school ground everyone down fairly quickly, and towards the end of term, violence became depressingly common. I was shocked at first to see teachers punching or kicking students, but it soon became a regular event. Occasionally, teachers would have to be dragged off by colleagues and pulled back to the staff room.

There was always the grinding oppression of overwork, stress and extreme physical conditions. By the end of the week terms, we were all utterly exhausted — a deep fatigue that hollows you out to a shell. Addicted to violence Once my friend Habtewolde, one of the teachers in the English Department, found two grade six students who had kidnapped a grade seven girl and were raping her in one of the old Ethiopian trenches. He trussed them up and dragged them back to the staff room.

The police were called. But most of the effects were subtler.

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In Ciao Asmara, Cameron Fraser, a British botanist at the Eritrean ministry of marine resources, tells Justin Hill about a recently discovered Red. Ciao Asmara: A Classic Account of Contemporary Africa [Justin Hill] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Asmara is the capital of Eritrea. It is a .

There were disturbed children who had seen people raped or murdered — often parents, brothers or sisters. There were children who had been born and had grown up in Sudanese refugee camps, and saw little point in education. There were the couple of students who every year died of diabetes, or caught TB or a simple disease like dysentery or giadia. The children with these illnesses stopped coming to school all of a sudden, and then the message came through, weeks later, that they had died. These kind of life experiences meant time in the classrooms — where 80 students sat three to a desk and three to a book — was as much about crowd management as teaching.

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Fights over book space, missing pencils or how much seat each student got were regular. Lethargy was also compulsive for some students. There were times I almost broke down because it was all so hopeless. Those were days I dreaded stepping into the classroom. Each day started with assembly. Teachers would take a stick and chase students out of classrooms and from behind walls, and herd them into line. The students loved the daily chase and excitement of it all.

There was a constant escalation of tactics on both sides as the term progressed. The teachers would begin to throw stones at the students, who would whoop and yell.

Students would leap out of classroom windows and run behind the back of the class. Teachers would work in pairs, taking both sides of the classrooms to catch all the students. The daily stress of work and its conditions compounded the poverty we all lived in. The low pay contributed to the demoralization of the teaching staff, all of who had children or parents to care for.

Some said it was the history of revolting against the old rulers, and others that the economy was so devastated that there were no jobs for people with an education. This was certainly a problem. The whole education system was run by liberation front fighters, from the Minister of Education to the director of each school. Some of the fighters deserved their positions — others did not.

The ministry preserved the command-style system of management that they had used in the war, but which was unsuitable for civilian staff and civilian life.