Brendan McSharry to YT: ” A National English Language Teaching Conference to be Held in Yemen in November” [Archives:2000/15/Interview]

April 10 2000

The British Council in Yemen is one of the outstanding cultural and educational institutions. It offers many services in various fields. However, its activities in the field of teaching English have been reduced after the civil war of 1994. Mr. Brendan Mc Sharry, Director of the British Council in Sana’a has been working in Yemen for almost five years. He is now spending his final days in Yemen. He has worked in Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Indonesia, Thailand, Iraq and Ecuador. His next destination is Zambia. Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Managing Editor, Yemen Times met him and filed the following.

Q: Taking into account your long stay here, how do you evaluate your stay in Yemen? Do you think that you have achieved your goals you came here with?
A: I have achieved some and others not. One of the goals when I came here was to try to restore the level of British activity in Yemen after the Civil War. We have in part restored, but there was a problem about two years ago when some British tourists were killed in Abyian and there were some British Muslims arrested in Aden. So we were obliged by London to evacuate all of our teachers. This caused some problems. But I think I have achieved some. We are more active than at the time of the Civil War, but there have been some problems since.
Q: Some people are trying to counter the warning against traveling to Yemen. What is your comment in this regard?
A: I have never agreed with the warning or travel advice against any travel to Yemen by anyone. I think it has not been good for business relations between Britain and Yemen. However, this year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in London has begun to reconsider the warning and they may consider issuing a softer advice. The Ambassador has worked hard to try to get them to be sensible about travel to Yemen. So we hope that things will change to the better.
Q: Do you think that this warning has affected the educational relationship between Yemen and Britain? Has it affected the activities of the British Council in Yemen?
A: Yes, partially because we have been unable to operate a quality teaching center, and partially also we have had some projects in the education field which depend on some consultants from the United Kingdom and they have been unable to come. So it has affected our activities, but we hope later this year things will go back to normal in terms of education projects and in terms of starting again an English center.
Q: How do you evaluate the Council’s activities at the moment?
A: At the moment I would say that we are fairly active. The one area which has been badly affected is, we have had to stop teaching English. We have started it again for one or two projects and we hope that will return to normal. But we still manage links between British universities and Yemeni universities. We are still very active and we are still running some projects, mainly in primary health care and parliamentary reform. But the one area that is still down or is reduced is English language teaching. We hope that will recover.
Q: What is the nature of the projects you run for the parliament?
A: That project has been into two parts. One part has been the provision of some training for parliamentary staff and some heads of parliamentary committees. The other part has been a women’s voter education campaign in Hadhramout.
Q: Are your activities confined to major cities?
A: So far it has been to all the cities. The only city that we have been unable to do anything in has been Saadah, but many of the projects we have done have been in the other cities.
Q: Any last word?
A: We are moving to new premises in the Libyan Center. Its more modern. It is much more functional as an office space and we hope the travel warning will be revised and our activities will be back to normal again. I know that both the Yemen-British Friendship Association in Sana’a and Aden and the British-Yemeni Society in London are keen for relations to get back to normal.
I would like also to add that we planned to hold a national English Language teaching conference in Yemen in November from the 13th to the 15th. It will be held in Aden and it has been organized between the British Council, the American Embassy and the Ministry of Education. It is for teachers and inspectors of English in the State system, in the schools and Universities throughout Yemen. It will be the first national English language conference since before the gulf war. We hope that this one will lead to the setting up for an English teachers association for Yemeni teachers. We will hope to get some international speakers from Britain and the United States to speak as well as some key Yemeni speakers.