Country in Education, and more particularly in Humanities (4) [Archives:2004/766/Opinion]

August 23 2004

By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
5. Yemen in a Search for Identity and for New Horizons in Education
What is the best way for Self-Knowledge, Self-Understanding, and correct Cultural and Political Representation of one's Identity?
Well, the question, I think, has been answered 500 years ago with the Renaissance. There are few chances for a country to obtain real development and real power while avoiding to follow the path of Western Europe. Of course, not the 'same' but the 'similar' the 'corresponding' ones!

a. Ancient Yemenite in Schools
A greater part of interest for the Ancient Yemenite world must be expressed at all levels, education, mass media, average culture, art and literature, social life and politics. Arabic translation of Ancient Yemenite epigraphic documentation will certainly popularize the subjects.
A Corpus of Ancient Greek and Roman texts relating to the pre-Islamic Yemen must be established within a National Research Center working close with a university. It will be complemented by an equivalent Corpus of the rich Ancient Yemenite epigraphic evidence translated in Arabic.
Primary and Secondary Education manuals must be re-written with extensive focus not only on the pre-Islamic history of Yemen itself, but also on the interactions and the interconnections of Ancient Yemen with the Horn of Africa, India, Iran, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world. The importance of the Ancient Yemenite contributions to the World History must be stressed analytically.

Studying Ancient Yemenite in Yemen is not of philological but of national interest. Pending a considerable increase in the number of European tourists, a new generation of Yemenite guides must be formed that will be fluent in and able to read Ancient Yemenite inscriptions in the same way today a Greek guide in Greece and an Italian guide in Italy are able to read epigraphic documentation in Ancient Greek and Latin.
Within a perspective of 5 (five) years, Ancient Yemenite literature must be introduced – in the form of text, translation, and commentary – to the Secondary Education's three last years' courses for all the Yemenites. It must be done in the same way Latin is present within the modern Italian educational system.

b. Language / Literature / Folklore Academies for Suqutri in Qalansiya, and for Mehri in Qishn
Delving into the past means at times better understanding the present. Large projects must be undertaken for the preservation, writing, cultivation, and propagation of the Mehri, Suqutri, and Hobyot languages, but also of the neighboring Oman's Jibbali, Harsusi and Bathari that are survival forms of Ancient Yemenite languages. A special National Committee must be formed in this regard, and an entire plan must be made in order to save traditions, songs, and all the expressions of folklore within these most valuable linguistic entities of Yemen.
An Academy of Suqutri in Qalansiya, and an Academy of Mehri in Qishn must be the basic tools that will help up to the point of creating university courses in Soqotri and Mehri (in a perspective of 10 to 15 years). This will classify Yemen among the leading countries of the world in preserving Languages under Threat of disappearance, therefore bearing testimony to the multicultural and multilingual commitment of a democratic administration.

c. Cooperation for the establishment of an Italian Red Sea University at Al Mokha
Taking into consideration basic trends in the global world of academic establishments, Yemen must anticipate things expected to happen within the next 10 to 15 years. The reaction of Francophonie to English, which is the prevailing language in the Internet (but also at the level of academic establishments) is going to have consequences. Sooner or later, Spaniards, Germans, Chinese, Brazilians and Russians will imitate. There will be two ways to counterweight the English medium universities, but until now only one has been implemented, namely another foreign linguistic medium university. We have got French universities in several countries where the citizens are not French native speakers, namely Turkey, Egypt, etc. We also have got a German University outside the limits of Mitteleuropa.
Evaluating the traditional interest of Italy in the area of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa, Eastern Somalia, Abyssinia, and more particularly Eritrea, the Italian involvement in the decipherment of Ancient Yemenite, as well as in Egyptology, Meroitic Studies, and Gueze Studies, one can introduce the concept of an Italian Mare Rosso (Red Sea) University at al Mokha, where Eritreans, Sudanese, Abyssinians, Somalis, Omanis as well as Mozambicans, Malagasies, Tanzanians and Kenyans will be studying along with the Yemenite students in an effort to promote peace, cooperation, and the regional development of human resources that will be needed over the next 50 years. Italy will certainly find the project as an excellent way of propagating Italian language, education, culture, as well as of expanding economic and political interests in an area that was long considered by the Italian establishment as falling within their 'domain'. The project will have an impact of the first steps of regional interconnection (trade, navigation), as well as on Tourism in Yemen.

d. The Future of the Global Academia is in Bilingual Universities
It has not started yet, as a means of opposition to the preponderance of English, but it will soon. The concept has it that one of the two linguistic media of the university is already native language to all the students. A first year of intensive learning of the other language is offered. Then, the main 4-year Bachelor syllabus is offered in both languages, every year some courses in one and some courses in the other language. All papers are issued in two languages, and the academic staff itself is asked to learn the unknown language (if it is so) within the span of three years, and to be able to teach in this language as well within the span of five years.

1. Arabic / Chinese University
Nothing could help China penetrate the Arabic speaking world better than a bilingual Arabic / Chinese University established in Yemen. This would be the high place of Chinese students learning Arabic, since the Chinese attribute great importance to direct talks in negotiations; it would offer them a cheap way to form their Arabic speaking part of establishment. At the same time, it would make of Yemen the converging place for rich and poor Arabic speaking countries' students wishing to find job opportunities in numerous Chinese companies that appear in the Middle East, in the rising incoming Chinese tourism, or in various other fields.

2. Russian/Arabic, and Turkish/Arabic universities
The eventuality of bilingual Russian/Arabic, and Turkish/Arabic universities may also be found worthy of financing among many financial, political and academic circles in Russia, in Turkey, and in several Central Asiatic countries (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizia and Kazakhstan) where both Russian and Turkish are a kind of international or second native language.

3. Portuguese/Arabic university
Working closely with regional and global partners in this regard, Yemen can envisage a university that would be located half on Yemenite soil, and half on Mozambican soil. Brazil, Portugal (and therefore the European Union), as well as Angola would also be concerned in this regard. It would consist in a cheap way for Portuguese to prepare their own Arabic speaking class of establishment that would help this southern European country in penetrating the North-Western African market. More than anything else such a tool would be useful for Brazil, a rising international pole of power, in setting foot in Africa and in the Arabic speaking area that both consist in ideal market opportunity for the fast expanding Latin American gigantic country.