For many teens, the last year of high school is a time of excitement filled with studies, athletics and dances. But young Eritreans spend the year at a military camp preparing for mandatory conscription and indefinite national service, where they face physical and mental abuse.
A new report by Human Rights Watch offers the most detailed look to date at Eritrea's conscription system, which forces young people to complete their final year of high school in the desert town of Sawa at a facility that's part school, part boot camp.
The report, They Are Making Us Into Slaves, Not Educating Us, draws on interviews with 73 former secondary school students and national service teachers to provide details on what happens in the camp.
HRW found that authorities at Sawa keep students under military command throughout the year, beat them for minor infractions and force them to perform labor. Teachers at the camp are not much older than the students. Since they are compelled to serve at the camp, they are often indifferent or absent.
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