Photograph — Saint Albert

The Eritrean government has given orders to shut down academic institutions owned by religious organizations present in the country.

On Tuesday, August 3, 2019, a directive was issued to leaders and governing bodies of the Catholic Church, Christian and Muslim groups to cede the control of their academic units. As a result, government authorities have now moved further to seize control of seven secondary schools with agents positioned at school compounds demanding a quick handover.

This is not the first time the Eritrean government is implementing similar actions. In June, health facilities run by the Catholic Church was shut down. The nuns and other health workers were instructed to leave the hospital immediately and stopped from taking any hospital equipment with them, leaving workers with no other source of income to fend for themselves.

The government insists that this closure is in line with regulations introduced in 1995, which seeks to limit the activities of religious institutions from being involved in programs with schools, hospitals, agriculture and the elderly.

The regulation states the separation of powers and limits the developmental activities of religious bodies to funding and monitoring in specific sectors identified by the government.

A possible motive behind the government’s closure of these schools might be to turn all schools public. It had made several attempts in the past to do this.

A report shows that the Eritrean government has had long-standing plans to transform all schools into a community or public school. According to them (government), the role of any religious body is to look solely after the spiritual needs of its members, they should dissuade from any form of social activity.

However, with this move, the government is neglecting some of the benefits the religious organizations for the economy. A United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, Daniel Kravetz, stated that “The seizure of these health facilities will negatively impact the right to health of the affected populations, in particular, those in remote rural areas.”

Likewise, the shutdown of schools will be affecting an even greater lot. Most religious schools are attended by the children of the poor or those economically disadvantaged citizens of the countries. The last thing any African government needs now is sending children out of the schools with no alternative plans for them.

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