Appeal to the PresidentSave our youth [Archives:2005/828/Opinion]

March 28 2005

By Afrah A. Basalamah
For The Yemen Times

Yemen has witnessed many slogans saying that education and science are the best investment for the future, and that “youth are the real future and fortune for the nation.” A lot of attention has been paid to education, particularly higher education, many new universities have been opened, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has been established.

Unfortunately, the lack of equal opportunities for all students regardless of their racial, economic or political backgrounds has left good students without the necessary scholarships.

The case of my brother, Engineer, Sameer Basalamah, is an example of the injustice in the education system. He studied at our family's expense during his undergraduate studies abroad, and graduated with a Aerospace Engineering degree from one of the best universities in Britain. During this time, he did not receive a scholarship, despite the fact he deserved one, because our family did not have the appropriate connections.

The principle of connections or “wasta” contradicts Yemen's constitution, which stated that all citizens have equal rights and responsibilities in front of the law. It also contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants everyone the right to an appropriate education.

After being accepted by five British universities to attend the year-long Masters course in Aerospace Engineering, my brother applied through the Ministry of Higher Education for a scholarship. After completing all the necessary paperwork, and after the initial agreement by Dr. Abdulwahab Rawah, Minister of Higher Education, the Minister refused to sign it without giving any explanation.

Does it make any sense that the future of Yemen's youth should be determined by the whim of a government official? This minister's actions toward my brother were unfair, unreasonable and unjustifiable.

My brother managed to get enough money and start his education in the UK, but unfortunately, after the first semester, he was not able to pay the rest of the fees, despite the fact that my family had paid thousands of U.S. dollars already. He requested an academic suspension from his program, so that he can continue after one year. He returned to his homeland frustrated and hopeless.

My family tried again to get a scholarship for my brother but the minister maintained his negative position. Then, after more than two months of paperwork, my brother's scholarship was approved to cover him for the remainder of his course. However, the Minister told us that “as he started his studies, he should complete them,” implying that he should also pay the rest of the fees, and once again refused the scholarship.

This bureaucracy and negative attitude of the minister has damaged my brother's future twice. Why can't this country provide hardworking smart people with good educations or at least assist them in getting one? This experience has cost my brother to lose two years of his life and prevented him from finishing his Masters degree.

Every day we hear about dozens of Yemeni youths who deserve but did not win the support of the educational system in this country. The Minister of Higher Education owes us an apology and an explanation for our misery.

Yemenis are being forced to lose precious time in search of connections, and are obstructed by authority figures, who should be the first people to encourage and support the youth. If this generation feels loved, and respected, they will give it back to this nation and help in developing their country.

We are in great need, your Excellency Mr. President, to help a young Yemeni to complete his education, which will benefit him and our country when he returns to our beloved homeland after his graduation.