Eritrean Authorities Seize Control of Catholic-Owned School, Set to Take Over Another

Entrance to Hagaz Agro-Technical School (HATS) in Eritrea. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The government of Eritrea has taken over the Hagaz Agro-Technical School (HATS), a Catholic learning institution that the Brothers of the Christian Schools (LaSalle Brothers) established and have been running, an August 24 BBC report indicates.

In the BBC report, sources who maintained anonymity told BBC that Don Bosco Technical School in Dekemhare in Eritrea is “another Catholic-owned training college to be handed over to the government in September” this year.

The Hagaz Agro-Technical School “has been providing training in farm machinery, rearing of crops and animals, as well as soil conservation for the last 23 years,” the BBC report indicates.

The school is also known for producing Shalku wines, a drink made from grappa and jam. From its dairy cattle, it produces yoghurt and cheeses.

These latest seizures are part of the confiscations that have been going on in the Horn of Africa nation since 2019, the government citing a 1995 regulation that limited activities of religious institutions.


Catholic Bishops in Eritrea opposed the regulation, arguing that the Church’s social services are not in opposition to the government.

“The Church’s life is connected with the service of the people,” the August 24 BBC report quotes members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Eritrea as having stated in their letter to the Eritrean government.  

The Church leaders who operate through the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat (ErCS) are reported to have repeatedly called on the government of Eritrea “to nurture an inclusive democracy and end authoritarian tactics”, the August 24 report indicates.

“Many analysts believe the latest seizures are a retaliation for the Catholic Church's call for reforms in the one-party state,” BBC has reported.

The Don Bosco Technical School that the Eritrean government is set to confiscate next month is located in Dekemhare city, the second largest city in Eritrea after the capital Asmara.

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The school offers training in the field of building construction, metalworking, automotive mechanics, machine tool mechanics, carpentry, furniture, electricity, electronics and technical expertise.

The school guarantees about 160 students a year to obtain a professional diploma that allows them to find work and hope for a future without having to “flee” from their own country.

The Eritrean government that has allowed the Catholic Church to operate alongside the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran, and Sunni Islam regards other religious groups in the country as foreign entities, the BBC report indicates.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.