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Eritrea, officially known as the State of Eritrea, is a country located in the Horn of Africa, with a total geographic area of nearly 46,000 square miles.  From its founding and up until 1941, when Eritrea was acquired by the UK, the country was a colony of Italy, and its name, “Eritrea,” is from the Italian form of the Greek name meaning “Red Land.”  Eritrea is bordered to the west by Sudan, to the south by Ethiopia and to the southeast by Djibouti.  The Red Sea, which separates Eritrea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, comprises the coastline of the country in the east and northeast.  The total area of the country also consists of the Dohlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.  The capital and largest city in Eritrea is Asmara.
 
Eritrea has a permanent population of roughly 5.8 million—a population that is very ethnically diverse.  It is comprised of people from a number of ancestral backgrounds, including the Tigrinya (55%), Tigre (30%) and Saho (4%) people, along with smaller groups of Kunama, Rashaida and Belin, each comprising 2 percent of the population.  Eritrea has two official languages, Arabic and English.  These languages are taught in school and used for all official business of the government, but commonly and informally, there are a number of local indigenous languages spoken, depending on the region of the country.
 
Because Eritrea has traditionally been a major hotspot for trade, largely due to its strategic location, the influence of many different cultures can be seen throughout the country, particularly the customs and traditions of the native population, but also a strong Italian influence, which dates back to the country’s colonial days.  Evidence of these Italian roots can be seen everywhere throughout the country, but it is particularly noticeable in Asmara, the country’s capital and cultural hub.  For example, small European-style cafes dot the local cityscape in Asmara, and locals tend to frequent these establishments to sip both hot and cold Italian beverages and to socialize, much like they still do today in Italy. 
 
Eritrean dress consists of ornate and brightly colored clothes, especially for women.  However, within the Muslim population, the style of dress is much more subdued, and nearly all Muslim women maintain the Islamic custom of covering their faces in public.  Football and cycling share the honor as the country’s favorite sports, and recently, there have been several athletes from both sports that have competed very successfully in the international arena.
 
Education in Eritrea
 
Education in Eritrea is the responsibility of the national government.  School is compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 14, but despite this mandate, net enrollment rates—and student test scores—are much lower in Eritrean schools than the world average.
 
As stated in the country’s Educational Charter, the goal of the education system in Eritrea is to provide basic education in each of the country’s national and local languages, and to train students vocationally so that, following their education, they will be self-reliant and able to contribute to their family, the economy and the country. 
 
Education is divided between five levels in Eritrea:  pre-primary school, primary school, middle school, secondary school and tertiary or higher education.  Of these levels, only primary and middle school education is compulsory.  Students with access to primary and middle schools receive basic instruction in reading, writing and basic mathematics, followed by courses in language, science and the humanities.  Secondary school instructors teach a combination of academic and vocational courses, the former leading to university admission, and the latter to participation in the workforce following graduation.
 
Those who graduate from secondary school in Eritrea earn a diploma and are eligible to enroll at one of two universities in the country, where they can earn undergraduate degrees in a limited number of academic and professional fields.  Sadly, only a very small percentage of secondary school graduates go on to attend one of the universities.

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