CHARACTER BUILDING: Prerequisite for Meaningful Development [Archives:1998/13/Viewpoint]

March 30 1998

It is commonly repeated that human resource development is the way to achieve modernization and growth. Indeed, the individual is the basis for meaningful development. Unfortunately, however, human resource development is taken to mean only passing on technical skills and education, providing health care and other aspects with the explicit purpose of raising productivity and efficiency of the workforce. While these are all vital and necessary, they fall far short in terms of leading to a full human being. The main missing element is character strength and personal integrity.
It is no secret that many a person with very high qualifications, even with a PhD degree, can be useless or may even have a negative impact. You can see examples of this at our universities, where hordes of Ph.D holders make no real contribution to society’s well-being. It is not enough to simply have a high degree. A person needs to find meaning in life, and more importantly, a mission in life. This is where character building comes in.
Let me add another dimension. A person with character strength does not allow him/herself to be an instrument for wrong actions, decisions and behavior. Many of our senior officials are rather well-educated, but they have mostly ended-up as mere puppets as they are routinely ordered around, many times to do wrong things. Character strength would not allow this phenomenon.
There is one more dimension – character integrity. A person with integrity would have a minimum level of conscience to guide him/her out of activities that inflict damage to others, let alone to society at large. Therefore, the fact that many highly educated Yemenis end up as corrupt parasites who are responsible for much of the suffering of the people proves that a high level educational certificate is not enough.
We cannot blame this on the kind of education they received. The blame falls on lack of proper character building. The truth is that many Yemenis have studied in many educational systems – Russia, USA, Europe, etc.. How is it, then, that they end up falling prey to bad behavior? We cannot blame the educational system. We have to zero-in on character strength and integrity. This is something people get from their homes, schools, media, mosques and society at large.
I call on our intellectual and religious leaders to focus on ways and means to enable us achieve character-building for the success of the country.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher