An Oasis of Opportunity for Youth
With more than half its population under the age of 15, Eritrea is perhaps one of the world’s “youngest” countries. Yet it’s also one of the poorest. Hindered by an inadequate educational system and few employment opportunities, most residents rely on subsistence farming in order to survive. At the Don Bosco Technical School in Dekemhare, about 7 miles outside the capital city of Asmara, Salesian missionaries are teaching students the skills they need to build brighter futures.
Since 1995, the school has provided an oasis of opportunity in the desert. Located within a busy Salesian community—which also includes a guest house, an aspirantate, a community chapel and an oratory serving more than 600 youth—the Don Bosco Technical School currently educates 400 students in courses including automotive, metal works, mechanics, carpentry, construction, woodworking, electricity, electronics and more. These students also take academic courses and learn basic information technology skills. After completing two years of training, they take a national exam that qualifies them for well-paid employment.
The school offers a crucial alternative to Eritrea’s national service program, in which high school graduates must pledge 18 months of their lives to military training and employment preparation for low-paid civilian jobs. In recent years, the service program has extended indefinitely, meaning those who enter it ultimately are unable to leave—a situation that amounts to forced labor. In order to avoid this fate, many youth drop out of high school before they graduate, which solves one problem but exacerbates another.
“Unfortunately, this perfectly understandable strategy perpetuates, rather than alleviates, their poverty,” explains Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. Noting that participating in the national service program is the only way most Eritrean youth can access secondary education, he says that “without the Don Bosco Technical School, which has stepped in to address an overwhelming need, the prospects for so many of these students would be bleak.”
To date, nearly 2,400 students have graduated from the school. In order to educate as many of the country’s youth as possible, Salesian missionaries are now working to build a fully self-sustainable campus, which will help reduce overall operational costs. Recently, our dedicated donors helped purchase dairy cows that will provide both nutrition for students and a source of income. Missionaries also hope to install an on-site water collection system and hydraulic pump to meet daily drinking and sanitary needs.
Our mission helps marginalized youth build better futures through access to education and training. What’s your mission?