“I will not send my daughter to any regional university” says a father whose daughter has become eligible for higher education learning.
These days’ Ethiopian parents are afraid of sending their children to regional universities because they fear that the institutions have become a hotbed for ethnic violence. “If they [students] don’t feel safe, they cannot focus on their studies,” the father said.
There is a real danger in universities nowadays. In the past year alone, many Ethiopian universities have experienced some kind of ethnic violence, which in some cases had resulted in student deaths. Namely in Adigrat, Aksum, and Debre Markos.
The government of Ethiopia has implemented a new system to counter the security threats seen in higher education institutions. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education had announced just last week that students would have to sign an agreement with their district level education offices to become eligible to attend their assigned universities. If students do not present themselves with an official paper from the district offices, the university will not allow their admission to proceed.
The ministry has pointed out that the agreement will allow them to find and inform both parents and students and take the proper legal action against students that have participated in violent activities. Furthermore, the ministry believes this agreement will enable the universities to maintain peace and security enabling a smooth teaching-learning process.
Many parents are hoping this approach will mitigate the problems of ethnic violence that has become prevalent in many universities. One concerned parent said, “This regulation will make every student responsible for his/her actions.” He added, “A student should be committed to his study. Politics and other issues comes later.”
Other parents are having a hard time believing the government and its policy “Last year the government promised to ensure security, but many students had been injured and some have even died. I don’t know if the government will deliver on their promise.” said a father who plans to enroll his daughter to one of the private colleges in Addis Ababa.
While many parents are unsatisfied with the measures taken by the government, some activists on social media are claiming that this new regulation is an act of clamping down on freedom of expression as opposed to providing security for students.
Universities have always been a center for political movements in Ethiopia; from the 1964 demonstrations against Emperor Haile Selassie to the demonstrations against the Derg junta and EPRDF. Such movements have not been without a cost. As history can attest to all the lives lost. However, while these demonstrations were of a people subjugated by a corrupt state today’s movements have an edge to them. A violent tendency based not on a yearning for freedom but rather a chauvinistic attitude towards ethnicity and so it is no wonder why parents are afraid to send their children to universities.