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The Challenges of Equitable Provision of Quality Education in Eritrea

High school students in Asmara

By Musa Hussein Naib


This paper discusses the provision of equitable quality education under the principle of social justice and investigates its implementation in the Eritrean high schools. It discusses the concept of social justice, quality education and equity in quality in general and from the Eritrean perspective. It highlights quality indicators and key elements for quality evaluation. It talks about pedagogy and major pedagogic quality indicators and suggests a model for quality assessment. It is the position of this paper that the provision of equitable quality education is a precondition for the implementation of the principle of social justice to which Eritrea adheres to. Six high schools out of the 60 schools that were participating in the Eritrean Secondary Education Certificate Examination (ESECE), representing the rural and urban settings, were investigated to assess to what extent quality education is provided equitably.

1. Social justice, quality education and equity

1.1 The Principle of Social Justice

Social justice is a very vast and controversial subject. It is a concept difficult to define and open to different interpretations according to people’s political orientation, religious background, cultural differences and philosophical inclination which makes it hard to have one common definition (North, 2006; Oduran, 2006). Nevertheless, based on the political philosophy of the right and left one can come up with a very broad definition of this concept. From the leftist point of view, it means a society with a greater degree of economic equality characterized by equitable distribution of the resources of the country. It demands the provision of the basic human needs such as food, shelter, safety, medical care, education, etc. in an equitable manner through a mechanism set by the state. The rightist perspective considers it to mean a just society created under the values of individual liberty, free market and equality of opportunity and it believes that it should be left to the free market and consciousness of the individuals (encouragement of philanthropists) without any interference from the state. Nizick, an influential political theorist on social justice, is one of those representing the right perspective (as cited in Swift, 2001). He considered the accumulation of wealth by few and the dire poverty of the majority as a bad luck for the poor and not as unjust.

Generally, there are two views on social justice. There are some scholars who reject the concept of social justice and maintain that it cannot be realized. They argue that any attempt to do so, will be at the expense of liberty (Swift, 2001). Hayke, a political theorist on social justice, characterized the concept of social justice as a “mirage” and “confusion” that doesn’t deserve any attention (as cited in Swift, 2001: 19). He rejected the concept of social justice since to him it “implies a centralized authority making people to do things they might not want to do” (Swift, 2001:19).

Supporters of social justice believe that the implementation of this principle creates fairness and justice in a society. David Miller defined it as something that concerns “the distribution of benefits (includes intangible things such as prestige and self-respect) and burdens” (such as disadvantages) in society (Miller, 1997: 22). According to Miller it deals with affairs such as the regulation of wages, profits, allocation of housing, medicine, welfare benefits, etc. Simutanyi (2008) argued that the principle aims at the realization of justice for a society. He referred to Aina’s 2006 work in explaining that the concept originated from values such as fairness impartiality and egalitarianism (as cited in Simutanyi, 2008). He asserted that there is a convergence of opinion that the notion is against poverty and illiteracy and advocates for sustainable environmental and social development. It refers to a society that fairly distributes its rewards and burdens.

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