Distance Learning in Ethiopia Un-Banned?
Last week, it was quietly announced that the official wholesale ban on distance learning educational programs in Ethiopia has been lifted. In August 2010, the ban was imposed out of the blue “because of quality concerns”. According to one report, following six-weeks of “negotiations” between education officials and distance learning service providers a settlement was reached in which providers reportedly agreed to create a curriculum that places more emphasis on science and technology and establish a trade association to oversee quality assurance. Education officials are expected to undertake stricter supervision and monitoring of distance learning institutions. The training of teachers and health care workers, and apparently legal education, will be reserved exclusively for public higher education institutions under the political control of the regime.
Doing the Right Thing
When I wrote my commentary “Ethiopia: Indoctri-Nation” this past September, I argued that the wholesale ban of private distance learning programs by “directive”, or more accurately by bureaucratic fiat, was a flagrant violation of the governing law known as the “Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009” [‘Proclamation’] and the constitutional property rights of the providers. I demonstrated that the responsible regulatory agency known as the “Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency” (HERQA) could only “revoke accreditation” of private distance learning institutions which fails to meet “minimum standards” on a case-by-case basis following a fact-finding and appeals process. It does not have the legal authority to impose a wholesale ban.
The reasons reported publicly for the “negotiated agreement” lifting the ban are not convincing in light of the provisions of the Proclamation. HERQA has broad regulatory authority to “ensure the minimum curricula quality standards”. It does not need to “negotiate” its own legal authority to demand accountability and observance of standards from substandard providers; it could simply commence de-accreditation procedures against them. Instead of imposing a wholesale ban, the prudent and sensible thing for HERQA would have been to notify distance learning stakeholders of deficiencies, consulted with them on remedies and instituted stricter accountability and quality control measures with increased oversight and monitoring. Those who fail to cure deficiencies within a reasonable time could be set for a “de-accreditation” hearing. Inexplicably, HERQA officials and the political bosses in charge of education acted rashly and arbitrarily in August; now they have been forced to turn back the clock because the total ban has proven to be impractical and irrational to implement and has made the ruling regime in Ethiopia the laughing stock of higher education throughout the world.
As I have demonstrated in my commentary referenced above, the blanket ban on distance learning was wrong because it imposed collective punishment on all members of a group without an opportunity to be heard and a fair determination of the facts. The ban also unfairly smeared all distance program providers in the country as sub-standard, and maligned the leaders of these institutions as scammers in light of comments by officials which insinuated that the “purpose [of the providers] was to collect money” and not provide legitimate educational services. It is impossible to imagine that all distance learning providers in the country are so deficient in quality that they needed to be shut down at once. If that were true, it would be a sad commentary on those officials responsible for education in the country for allowing such institutions to function as they have for so many years. Imposing the ban in August was wrong; righting that wrong by lifting the ban now (assuming that it is actually lifted and is not merely a public relations gimmick) is a testament to education itself: “All humans make mistakes, but only the wise ones learn from them.”
Educational bureaucrats and their political bosses in Ethiopia could learn a few lessons from the blanket ban fiasco. First, it is important for them to incorporate the principle of the rule of law in their official actions. Simply stated, they could act only to the extent that they have constitutional and statutory authority. They cannot act arbitrarily or abuse their power because they occupy a political position. The ban was manifestly the result of lack of knowledge or willful ignorance of the applicable law by officials in charge of educational policy-making and implementation. Had these officials familiarized themselves with their governing Proclamation, it would have been self-evident to them that they have to follow the prescribed de-accreditations procedures and could not impose a total ban. They need to institutionalize and practice the principle of the rule of law as part of their bureaucratic culture which will help them perform their duties with high degree of accountability, transparency and efficiency.
The second lesson to be learned is that to avoid the type of mindless and irrational policymaking, the political bosses in charge of education should establish a standardized notice-and-comment process before proposed regulations are implemented. By publicly announcing a proposed rule change in advance, impacted institutions, groups, communities and members of the general public would be given an opportunity to provide input and share their views on their special circumstances. They could also provide policymakers data and analysis to help in the formulation of policies that are balanced, efficacious and likely to be implemented successfully. Such a process avoids hasty consideration of issues, premature and uninformed judgments, embarrassing decisions and obviates the need for the futile pursuit of impractical policies as evidenced in this ban.
To be sure, if the education officials had followed a notice-and-comment process, not only would distance learning service providers, teachers, students and their parents and others have had the opportunity to contribute positively to the policy process, the officials themselves could have spared themselves public embarrassment, avoided wasting time negotiating something the needed no negotiation and quite possibly avoid legal challenges to the ban. A notice-and-comment process also promotes accountability, transparency and public engagement in the policy process consistent with the prescription in Article 12 of the Ethiopian Constitution (Functions and Accountability of Government) which provides: “The activities of government shall be undertaken in a manner which is open and transparent to the public.” What better way to practically implement Article 12 than instituting an open notice-and-comment process?
A third lesson to be learned is that in higher education it is vital to maintain ongoing consultations with the stakeholders. Higher education is not the military high command where random and arbitrary orders are given to be followed unquestioningly. Having served in a leadership position in higher education strategic planning and implementation and overseen the development of a specialized distance learning program, I know it is counter-productive to even consider imposing bureaucratic control on curriculum, faculty, staff, students and administrators. Systematic and ongoing consultations with stakeholders are essential for a successful distance learning program design, planning, implementation, evaluation, maintenance and improvement. Quality concerns in distance learning are not limited to “ensuring minimum standards” as it seems to be the concern of educational officials in Ethiopia; there is the whole other area of student achievement and learning outcomes which can be tackled only by identifying student needs, problems and barriers students encounter in obtaining educational services. Without a comprehensive approach, the efforts to ensure minimum standards in the long run will amount to nothing more than window dressing.
The need for ongoing consultations with stakeholders needs emphasis. When HERQA suddenly announced the ban, distance learning providers, teachers and students at these institutions were shocked to find out that such a catastrophic policy had been made without even the courtesy of notice, let alone consultations with them as stakeholders. Molla Tsegaye, president of Admas University College, expressed shock and dismay when he learned about the ban: “We did not expect this. As stakeholders in the sector, we should have been consulted before all this.” Consultation is a process in which the concerned parties confer to share views, exchange ideas and give advice. Negotiation is a process in which the parties have issues which they seek to settle in a formal agreement. Both the providers and the educational bureaucrats and their political bosses are presumably on the same side. They are both manifestly interested and committed to educational quality and student learning. Consultations, not negotiations, are more appropriate and efficacious to increase program quality and student achievement. If Ethiopia’s distance education providers are collectively failing in providing quality instruction, they should be presented with the data of sub-par performance and engaged as stakeholders to develop guidelines for best practices.
The fourth lesson to be learned is the need to de-politicize education. Education bureaucrats and their political bosses should respect principles of academic freedom in higher education and let students, faculty members, scholars and researchers have the freedom to teach, learn or communicate ideas without being targeted for repression, job loss and other retribution. Higher educational institutions, and schools in general, should not be places of indoctrination for the ruling party’s true believers. The legal, teaching and health professions should not be the exclusive domain of public institutions that are funded and completely controlled by the regime and its top leaders. Academic merit and freedom, and excellence in instructional quality should be the governing principles for higher education in Ethiopia, not party membership, party loyalty or party influence.
The fifth and most important lesson for the political bosses that orchestrated this fiasco is to publicly come out and say, “We made a mistake. We messed up. We acted rashly and without forethought when we imposed a wholesale ban! We will consult stakeholders in the future and solicit input from the public to ensure a transparent process; and we will act only to the extent that we have authority under the law.” There is nothing more important for the public than to have officials taking ownership of their mistakes. No reasonable person would disagree with efforts aimed at weeding out diploma mills and fly-by-night operations. No one would protest efforts aimed at protecting the public from educational fraud. The solution to these problem is not to throw out the baby with the bath water by imposing a total ban on distance learning, but to remove the rotten apples from the barrel. With the un-banning of distance learning, stakeholders, bureaucrats and their political bosses could begin a new chapter and go beyond setting “minimum standards” to setting a “gold standard” of best practices in distance learning not only for Ethiopia but also the African continent.
Reflections of an Education “Neo-Liberal”
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess my own predilections and preferences in higher education having spent much of my professional life in the university environment. I proudly advocate a laissez faire approach to higher education. That makes me an educational “neoliberal” (a word often used pejoratively by some benighted dogmatists, which I simply define as one who believes in a totally free marketplace of ideas undefiled by bureaucratic and regulatory vulgarity) who upholds the individual’s right to choose his/her own educational program and professional career. Well, get a load of this: “Hell, Yeah! I am an Educational Neo-Liberal and Damn Proud it!” As a “neo-liberal”, I believe in freedom of inquiry and thought. I am always willing to entertain new ideas with inquisitiveness and fascination, not fear and anxiety.
There are those destined to the dustbin of history who have argued that “the neo-liberal paradigm is a dead end, is incapable of bringing about the African renaissance, and that a fundamental shift in paradigm is required to bring about the African renaissance.” I say the only paradigm shift self-serving, pretentious, narcissistic and megalomaniacal dictators could bring is to march the “Dark Continent” backwards to the Dark Ages. It was the Renaissance European universities that led the scientific revolution and became the incubators of new ideas in science, literature, philosophy, art, politics, science and religion. Closing institutions of higher learning and banning fields of scientific and philosophical inquiry were the hallmarks of the Dark Ages, not the Renaissance.
My belief is that government regulation of education rarely results in quality improvement or student achievement. The maze of bureaucratic rules and regulations imposed by governments often stifle creativity, learning and the expansion of knowledge. Africa’s “renaissance” or rebirth is in the hands of its young people yearning to breathe free and struggling to exert their creative impulses to lift the continent out of poverty and dictatorship. There can be no renaissance when an official orthodoxy is forced upon citizens and the state mindlessly meddles in the marketplace of ideas and knowledge with a heavy hand. Suffice it to say that I believe in a free marketplace of ideas (universities) where students, teachers, researchers and scholars do not have to seek knowledge under the long shadow of official censors or look over their shoulders for the thought police lurking behind every bush on campus. As to the cultural role played by private higher educational institutions, could anyone doubt the enormous contributions of private universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and dozens more in America’s “renaissance”?
In the marketplace of ideas and knowledge, I say keep government out. Let individuals decide what they want and need. If students feel a private distance education program meets their needs, it should be their choice and not the decision of faceless, nameless and capricious bureaucrats. It is all about freedom of choice. In a free society, every citizen can choose his/her educational destiny. If one chooses to become an educator, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, a chemist or train to join any other profession, it is their right to pursue it particularly when they are paying for it out of their own pockets. Only totalitarian states mandate what each citizen will learn and become.
The whole idea of state monopoly in teacher education, health and the law is deeply offensive to anyone who believes in freedom of learning and education. In my September commentary referenced above, I noted: “State-certified teachers who are ruling party members could be used to play a decisive role in legitimizing the regime and in indoctrinating the youth in the regime’s ideology.” Human Rights Watch two weeks ago supported my observation with evidence that the ruling regime in Ethiopia had misused state educational facilities for political purposes and engaged in systematic political indoctrination of students and repression of teachers. 
As a lawyer and educator, I am particularly concerned about state monopoly over legal education. By monopolizing the law discipline, the ruling regime manifestly intends to regulate the admission of law students and the training of lawyers and judges who will administer “justice” in the country. Such a monopoly will produce not lawyers and legal professionals who are committed to the Constitution, the rule of law, principles of universal justice and ethical standards, but robotic legal cadres committed to the ruling regime and its policies. In other words, justice will be administered by party hacks, hirelings, flunkies and lackeys with ultimate loyalty to the dictator-in-chief. I am a proud “neoliberal” in education because I believe “education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army”; better yet, the best defense against an army of ignoramuses.
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA.
By Alemayehu G. Mariam
The Ministry of Indoctrination
This past week Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education issued a “directive” effectively outlawing distance learning (or education programs that are not delivered in the traditional university classroom or campus) throughout the country. According to reports, the directive of the Ministry’s Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) prohibits enrollment of new students in all distance education programs. It also creates a monopoly for state-controlled universities to administer the disciplines of law and teaching. There are said to be 64 private institutions serving some 75,000 students throughout the country that are impacted by the directive.
The reason for the sudden and radical change in policy is said to be concern for educational quality. Ministry spokesman Abera Abate painted all private distance learning institutions in the country with a broad brush by categorically condemning them as scams and diploma mills. “When the purpose is collecting money, it is not a good purpose. The only issue some universities have is collecting money.” Of course, the directive does not apply just to “some” universities whose “purpose is collecting money”; it applies to all distance education providers in the country.
The response from the various private educational service providers was swift. Wondwosen Tamrat, president of St Mary’s College and former chairman of the General Assembly of the Ethiopian Private Higher Education Institutions Association (EPHEIA) described the directive as “ridiculous. The [regime’s] inability to enforce the quality standards already set should not lead to these kind of measures… We have participated in the legal education reform programs, and our college issues a biannual law journal…In fact, in this area, it is public institutions that are suffering from a shortage of human resources, rather than the private sector.” According to Tamrat, “two-thirds of the students [in his university] are in the distance education division…If you are not offering this program, it would mean we would be losing what we have been working for the last 11 years. We have 140 distance education centers all around the country. We have people in all of these centers. We would be losing these.” Tamrat expects to layoff of more than 800 of his 1,200 employees.
Molla Tsegaye, president of Admas University College, expressed surprise and dismay for the complete lack of consultations in drafting the directive: “We did not expect this. As stakeholders in the sector, we should have been consulted before all this.” Mihreteab Workineh, vice chairman of the 50-member EPHEIA was outraged: “Our association sternly objects to this. It is not about public or private institutions, the concern for quality is our concern too. That is why we have already devised an audit mechanism to ensure quality education by private institutions.”
It may be recalled that in August 2009, the regime issued a directive which prohibited university “students graduating in the year 2008-2009 from all governmental higher learning institutions from collecting their academic credentials including the student copy until they find jobs which enable them to refund the cost sharing expenses utilized at the universities.” The Ministry of Education described that effort as a “new scheme the government might be able to raise back those expenses and handle human resources going abroad.”
Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009
Wholesale elimination of private distance learning programs by “directive”, or more accurately bureaucratic fiat, is a flagrant violation of Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009. Under this Proclamation, the Ministry of Education and its sub-agencies have the authority to regulate and “revoke accreditation” of a private institution which fails to meet statutory criteria on a case-by-case basis following a fact-finding and appeals process. They have no legal authority to impose a summary wholesale ban of distance learning or other educational programs provided by private institutions. The Proclamation requires the Ministry to give such institutions a notice of deficiency and adequate time to correct the deficiency before taking de-accreditation action. The Ministry bears the burden of proof in showing that a particular private institution is in violation of the Proclamation in a fact-finding process that comports with standards of due process. A private institution has the right to appeal an adverse decision by the Ministry before it becomes final.
Higher Education Proclamation No. 650/2009, section 71 et seq., provides the statutory basis for the regulation and governance of higher education in Ethiopia. The Proclamation aims to ensure “accountability” and requires private institutions to “ensure the minimum curricula quality standards,… maintain a readily accessible list of accredited study programmes… and submit detailed plans on education, research and training on a five-yearly basis,…” Section 77 of the Proclamation provides that accreditation issued to a private institution “shall be valid for three years from the date of its issuance,” subject to renewal unless there is good cause for denying or withdrawing accreditation. A private institution may lose its accreditation and be legally prevented from providing educational services under section 81 of the Proclamation for three reasons:
The Agency may revoke the accreditation of a private institution on any one of the following grounds:
a) where it is found that the accreditation has been given on the basis of false information; b) where the institution fails to rectify defects within the time fixed in the warning given by the Agency for failure to satisfy the required standards or for contravening the provisions of this Proclamation, any other relevant law or regulations or directives issued for the implementation of this Proclamation. c) where the institution is dissolved or ceases its operations.
Section 82 of the Proclamation further provides appellate procedures to review “revocation of accreditation”:
1) Any institution may appeal to the Ministry for a review of the Agency’s decision on rejection of an application for accreditation or renewal of accreditation or on the revocation of accreditation, within 30 days of the receipt of the decision. 2) The Ministry shall establish an appeal committee to review the decision of the Agency and to make recommendations. 3) The Ministry shall grant the applicant the right to be heard before the final decision is given on the appeal.
The HERQA “directive” which de-accredits and bans all distance education programs provided by private institutions is demonstrably violative of the process specified in the Proclamation. First, section 81 authorizes HERQA to act against private institutions on a case-by-case basis. Second, HERQA can act against a particular institution only after it has made specific factual findings of violations of the Proclamation or other law and “given a warning” to the institution. Third, if HERQA does find specific deficiencies, it can only act to de-accredit only if the institution “fails to rectify defects within the time fixed in the warning given by the Agency…” Fourth, any HERQA’s de-accreditation decision is stayed or suspended until the particular institution is given the “the right to be heard before the final decision is given on the appeal (Section 82).” All of these mandatory requirements of the Proclamation were ignored or disregarded by HERQA when the directive was issued.
By summarily mandating a ban on all private distance education, HERQA has acted ultra vires (beyond their legal powers and authority) in flagrant violation of Proclamation 650. Article 40 of the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees the “right of every Ethiopian citizen to own private property,” which it defines it as “any property, both corporeal and incorporeal, produced by the labour, creativity or capital of an Ethiopian citizen, associations of Ethiopian nationals endowed with legal personality by law…” To enforce the arbitrary and capricious “directive” unconstitutionally deprives the property rights of the owners and operators of private distance education programs without due process of law.
The Politicization of Higher Education in Ethiopia
Many of my regular readers are aware of my interest in Ethiopian higher education. In February 2008, I wrote a commentary entitled “Tyranny in the Academy” on the state of academic freedom at the Mekelle Law School following the dismissal of Professor Abigail Salisbury. She had published a commentary which painted a chilling portrait of fear and loathing at that law school. I observed: “The recent history of academic freedom and free intellectual inquiry in Ethiopian higher education is deeply scarred by political interference, political correctness, arbitrary purges of professors, harassment and persecution of faculty and students, and general intellectual repression.” The Salisbury episode, the regime’s “new scheme” introduced last August to hold the diplomas of university graduates hostage, and the current directive and other facts reinforce my belief that higher education is overly politicized and manipulated in Ethiopia to ensure the domination and control of the dictatorship.
The regime’s approach to higher education reminds me of a passage in Dr. Carter G. Woodson book, The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933). Dr. Woodson argued that the greatest danger and challenge for the African-Americans of his day was the risk of indoctrination in the form of education:
When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his proper place and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.
The ruling regime in Ethiopia today is hell-bent to use higher education as a tool of indoctrination for a new breed of ideologues and party hacks that will support it blindly and unquestioningly.
Throwing Out the Baby With the Bath Water
For the past three decades, distance learning has been a valuable educational delivery form even in the most industrialized countries. Today many of the most prestigious universities in the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley and Oxford, offer diverse distance learning courses and programs in a variety of settings. They maintain educational quality, program integrity and legitimacy through regional and national accreditation agencies that maintain and enforce rigorous pedagogical standards. High quality standards make the issue of “on site” versus distance learning unimportant. The question is no longer how students learn but what they actually do learn from their courses and programs. In quality distance programs, the course work and requirements are the same as the campus-based programs; the only difference is the method of content delivery.
If the aim of the regime in Ethiopia is to ensure high quality of educational content, the proper remedy is to enforce rigorous quality standards as mandated by Proclamation 650, and not to shut down each and every distance learning program in the country. By express declaration, the fundamental purpose of the Proclamation is to ensure “accountability” and “quality” and weed out the diploma mills and flight-by-night operations from the educational marketplace so that they will not victimize students with phony “degrees”. But the problem of quality control is entirely the regime’s. In a piece entitled, “Internal Quality Care Policy in Ethiopian Universities: Opportunities and Challenges,” Zenawi Zerihun W. Yohannes of Mekelle University in Ethiopia observed: “What is commonly employed in the higher learning institutions in Ethiopia as a way of checking quality is setting minimum standards on the educational process, such as the qualification of the academic staff, the organization of the curriculum, and other resources although differences in implementation and utilization are reported.”
It defies reason to argue that all private distance education providers in Ethiopia are diploma mills only “interested in money” and therefore deserve to be shut down collectively by disallowing them from enrolling new students. If these institutions are providing education and training to 75,000 students, they must be doing something right. Otherwise, they would have gone bankrupt for lack of students long before a directive is issued to wipe them out. The real question is why the regime has now decided to throw the baby out with the bath water.
What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander
It is ironic that the very people who now have decided to throw out the baby with the bath water are themselves graduates of distance learning programs. Dictator-in-chief Meles Zenawi reportedly obtained a graduate degree from The Open University (OU) in England, a reputable distance learning institution founded and funded by the British Government, while presumably carrying on the affairs of state. OU has an “open entry policy” where traditional admissions requirements are suspended for students to take undergraduate and graduate courses. It is also said that many of the top leaders of the dictatorship obtained degrees and certification from various distance learning programs in academic and non-academic areas such as “transformational leadership”.
It has been argued by some that the ban on distance learning in the country is motivated by petty concerns of the regime leaders that wide access to such programs could somehow cheapen their own distance learning diplomas and degrees. I have seen no evidence to support this view. But the real question for me is a much simpler one: If distance education is good enough for Zenawi and Company, should it not be good enough for the average Ethiopian seeking to improve his/her lot in life? It seems only fair that what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. It is also wise to remember that those who live in glass houses should be careful not to throw stones. Blanket condemnation of the country’s private distance education could invite unwanted attention and scrutiny on the distance education programs the regime leaders claim to have attended to obtain their diplomas and certifications.
The World Bank Says More Distance Learning Institutions for Ethiopia
The World Bank has emphasized the great need for a network of “tertiary educational” institutions (e.g. private colleges, technical and vocational training institutes, distance learning centers, etc.,) to help support the “production of the higher-order capacity” necessary for Ethiopia’s development. In a 2003 sector study entitled “Higher Education Development for Ethiopia”, the World Bank recommended
expansion of private tertiary institutions be more actively encouraged in order to make the burden of higher education expansion borne by government more bearable. A near term goal might be to double the share of private enrollments from the current 21% to 40% by 2010. To help achieve this goal, the Bank team recommends that Government provide stronger incentives for the expansion of private tertiary education (e.g., access to land, more generous customs exemptions for the importation of educational materials) and also extend quality-enhancing support to private institutions identified as needing improvement (e.g., participation in the National Pedagogical Resources Center, leadership and management training, creation of a fund for remedial actions). Consistent with the recent Higher Education Proclamation, the Bank team recommends that structured quality assurance and accreditation activities be put in place to protect the public from fraudulent and questionable quality providers that may emerge in the midst of rapid private expansion. (Italics added.)
Seven years ago the World Bank recommended, “A near term goal might be to double the share of private enrollments from the current 21% to 40% by 2010.” In 2010, Zenawi has decided to reduce private enrollments to zero!
The solution for any educational quality problems that may exist in the distance educational sector in Ethiopia is not to drop a blanket ban on all private institutions, but to create a rigorous quality control process that will ensure the weeding out of diploma mills and fly-by-night operations. As Yohannes of Mekele University noted, the problem is that the regime’s notions of educational quality do not go beyond “setting minimum standards on the educational process, such as the qualification of the academic staff, the organization of the curriculum, and other resources.” It is unfair and a violation of Proclamation 650 to impose collective punishment on all private institutions providing distance learning services for the regulatory failures of the regime or to presumably weed out a few bad operators.
Indoctri-Nation, Not Education
One of the largest operators of private distance learning programs has argued that “the growth of private universities in Ethiopia has contributed to a five-fold increase in the country’s gross higher education enrollment ratio” and has increased the college enrollment rate from “one percent of Ethiopians a decade ago to 5.1 percent today”. If these data are accurate, the private institutions deserve praise not condemnation and excommunication from the field of higher education.
I believe the regime has a long term strategy to use the universities as breeding grounds for its ideologues and hatcheries for the thousands of loyal and dependent bureaucrats they need to sustain their domination and rule. The monopoly created for the state in the disciplines of law and teaching (which I will predict will gradually include other disciplines in the future) is a clear indication of the trend to gradually create a cadre of “educated” elites to serve the next generation of dictators to come. It is a well-established fact that the regime has used teachers, particularly in the rural areas, extensively as party recruiters, enforcers and representatives by providing them financial and other incentives. By ensuring access to these disciplines only to ruling party members and supporters, the regime hopes to extend its tentacles to every part of the country. State-certified teachers who are ruling party members could be used to play a decisive role in legitimizing the regime and in indoctrinating the youth in the regime’s ideology. The fact that teachers are viewed respectfully in rural areas as “educated” persons gives them special advantages in influencing and manipulating not only the young at an early age but also in playing a far larger political role in the community. The politicized role of teachers in the May 2010 election amply testifies to that fact.
Similarly, by monopolizing the law discipline, the regime could regulate the training of lawyers and judges who will administer “justice” in the country. Instead of training lawyers committed to the Constitution, the rule of law, principles of universal justice and ethical standards, graduates of state-monopoly law schools will largely be party hacks, hirelings and lackeys with ultimate loyalty to the dictator-in-chief. Simply stated, the regime will be able to control two of the most important professions that have the greatest impact on the lives of the people. I will predict that the current trend in tightening control over higher education will continue because it is a central element of the regime’s strategy to use higher education as a way of transforming the decades-old bureaucracy and re-creating government in its own image. The regime believes that the only way it can continue to rule indefinitely is by creating its own robotic jackbooted-army of “educated” elites marching in lockstep throughout the bureaucracy to the orders of the dictator-in-chief. It is an exquisitely diabolical strategy, but unlikely to work.
The regime’s thinking on higher education is simple: Indoctrinate, indoctrinate and indoctrinate some more until you forge an Indoctri-Nation. It is wise to remember Dr. Woodson’s words:
When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his proper place and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary…
That’s why I would recommend to anyone concerned about educational injustice in Ethiopia to read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy (teaching) of the Oppressed.
FREE BIRTUKAN MIDEKSSA AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS IN ETHIOPIA.