Before it fades away [Archives:2005/829/Letters to the Editor]

March 31 2005

There is a saying in Arabic that the best made one can have is a book. Actually, this thought is found in most cultures in the world, praising the value of literature and celebrating the most significant invention in man's history: print media. The ability to share information across continents, cultures and various languages.

Historically, Yemen is one of the countries in the region that started print media early in the sixties called “al Fadhool”. Yet ironically, after so many years still the illiteracy rate is very high with just below 50% of the total population are able to read or write. In Sana'a, there are hardly any public libraries and those few are quite outdated and not so accessible to the majority of the people. If this is the case in the capital what could be expected of the rest of the country? Eventually there is a clear urgent need for spreading information and accessibility to knowledge resources. Recently, there has been an attempt to launch a “Friends of the Book Forum” initiated by Dr. Faris al-Sakkaf director of the “General Book Association”, that is still an idea and looking for channels through which it becomes reality. There seems to be many people interested in creating a huge modern public library in Sana'a but this idea is still pending because of very basic issues starting from the land on which this library would be built and other basic issues relating to organization tc.

Every passing day that goes without progress in this issue is only an indicator of how much this country, both people and government, is not aware of the importance of knowledge. Previous attempts to create alliances and lobby that aim at creating literature associations have failed for a variety of reasons most important of which is the negligence and ignorance of the importance of education. The young generations in Yemen know much less than what their parents had known in their age. This is because there are new interests today that are not in favor of knowledge and constructive learning.

Even on personal basis, Yemeni people do not read much, even those whose fields are so much related to information such as teachers, academics, researchers and even journalists. This is a tragedy, and any attempt to revive the value of reading in this country must be given all support and highest attention. Newborn ideas must be nourished before they are forced to die before their time. We MUST join forces to help this project as soon as possible; we must live it before it fades away.