On October 7, the former Italian school in Asmara, Eritrea, was definitively closed and the buildings handed over to the Eritrean authorities of the Ministry of Education.

The handover, which took place without ceremony or particular publicity, was attended by the Italian Ambassador Marco Mancini and the Eritrean Minister of Education Pietros Hailemariam.

The school, inaugurated in 1903 in the then Italian colony, continued to offer its courses uninterruptedly until 2020, when, as a result of the pandemic, it was decided to temporarily suspend its activities through a procedure that greatly unnerved the local authorities.

The episode of the closure of the school, however, represented only the last element of a troubled relationship, which had worn out between disinterest and the intentional will to reach such a drastic epilogue.

These responsibilities were shared by both the Italian and Eritrean sides, but today they seal the end of a 119-year-long experience of unprecedented historical and political value.

For a long time, the Italian side has certainly shown a general lack of interest in schools and, more generally, in defining a regional policy for the Horn of Africa, resulting in a gradual deterioration of bilateral relations with Eritrea. Added to this factor is Italy’s structural inability – in the region as elsewhere – to understand and then define concrete cultural soft power strategies.

No less problematic is the Eritrean counterpart, whose exasperated authoritarianism has never made relations with the international community, and with Italy in particular, easy. The project of nationalization of private schools – which also included those owned by religious institutions – has certainly influenced the process of crisis in the relationship with Italian schools.

Thus, in the second half of October, the Eritrean government finally took possession of the building of the former Italian school, planning a reopening characterized, however, by the adoption of new curricula.

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