British Council in Aden: OPTIMISTIC PLANS [Archives:1998/37/Law & Diplomacy]

September 14 1998

Mr. John Cleaver is currently the Manager of the British Council Teaching Center, and will soon be moving to Aden to become the Director of the British Council there. A graduate of the Cambridge University in History & Political Science, Mr. Cleaver has spent 14 years teaching English as a foreign language and 14 years in educational management, not only for the British Council, but also for a British private company. He taught in Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Greece, Kuwait, and Japan.
He also moved into management in Japan and spent a total of 6 years there. For 5 years, Mr. Cleaver ran an educational recruitment agency in London.
He first came to Yemen in December, 1995, and assumed his present post in April, 1996.
Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor, interviewed Mr. Cleaver on the occasion of his leaving to Aden.
Q: What ideas did you originally have to improve the system at the Sanaa British Council? What have you been able to achieve so far?
A: In 1994 the British Council Training Center closed because of the civil war and all the staff were evacuated. At the time we also had centers in Hodeida and Aden.
The Council school here re-opened in October 1995 and since then there has been the enormous task of sorting out the chaos of closure and evacuation, to say nothing of the necessity to create a successful teaching center using the most modern methods and equipment.
Two years ago we had 120 students, now we have over 400. There were originally 5 teachers, now there are 15. We were initially using 5 classrooms, now 12 classrooms are in use. In the early days we only taught General English classes, but since then we have taught English for Business and run Report-Writing courses. Our Young Learners’ center has been very successful, particularly during the summer with a 100 children aged 6-14 attending intensive classes.
I cannot stress enough that the Council Teaching Center receives no money whatsoever from the British government. It has to be run like a business, unlike the aid funded services of the main Council office such as scholarships, library and development projects. I can assure you that any profits are re-invested to upgrade our facilities. For example in May during this year we set up a Multi-Media Center with an inter-active CD ROM capacity for the use of our students. The CD ROM features special language programs and exercises developed exclusively by the Council which has a world-wide network of centers.
In any work one should never be entirely satisfied with what has been achieved, because there is so much to learn and constant change. At the British Council I think that we need to adapt our course more to the Yemeni learning style, and to pace better what we offer so that the students reach higher levels with skills in all aspects of learning English, namely reading and writing, listening and speaking. They are all facets of the same diamond, so to speak, the diamond being overall competence in English.
Q: What will your duties be Aden?
A: I’m becoming Director of the British Council in Aden, which only opened last October and already has nearly 200 students. I start there in next few days. It is principally a teaching center with a small reading room and information service. My main duties will be concerned with building up the center, but I would like to develop a modest cultural program and for it to become a center for British examinations. I have other ideas for its general development but these will depend on growth and financial resources.
I would also like to help set up a branch of the Yemen-British Friendship Association in Aden.
Q: Being British, does Aden have any special meaning to you?
A: I’m obviously aware of Aden’s connection with Britain, and my Adeni friends seem very warm and somewhat nostalgic towards Britain. It is a good feeling and we must build on these close links but as equal partners.
Q: Would you like to add anything?
A: I think I was fated to come to Yemen. Twenty years ago when I was working in Kuwait, I tried to visit 5 days during the Eid Al Fitr, but the moon didn’t do what it was supposed to do and I had to change my travel plans.
It was worth waiting for. I like this country and its people. I have always felt extremely comfortable here, I’m referring to the civility and real courtesy of Yemenis at all levels. After all it is a country of history and settled tradition, not a country artificially created like many of the countries in the region. At present Yemen is somewhat battered economically; it deserves a better future and in my view, Yemenis have the intelligence and talent to create this.
I have enjoyed working with my colleagues at the Council, both Yemeni and European, particularly Brendan McSharry, the Director of the British Council in Yemen. Finally I wish my successor, Kevin McLaven, the very best of luck.