Determining Spread of Illiteracy [Archives:1998/08/Culture]

February 23 1998

The cultural, social and economic development cannot be realized except within an educated society. Failure of development projects in Third world countries is often attributed to solely giving attention to economic development from the material point of view, disregarding the human element.
The Eradication of Illiteracy and Adult Education Organization, in cooperation with Central Statistics Organization and the Dutch Embassy in Sanaa, a training course was held in Sana’a during 18-19 February for assistant researchers in the field of sample surveying to determine the numbers of illiterate people

The opening ceremony was attended by the Deputy Minister of Education, Mr. Abdulmalek Al-Maalami; the Deputy Director of the Central Statistics Organization, Mr. Yahya al-Qayzal; the Dutch Embassy representative, Ms. Widad Kuleib; the Chairman of the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education Organization, Mrs. Fawzya Noman; the Vice-Chairman of the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education Organization, Mr. Mohammed Al-Midhawahi and a number of headmasters in Sana’a.
In his speech during the opening ceremony, the Deputy Minister of Education stressed the importance of working towards illiteracy eradication and considered this the right step to better organize illiteracy eradication. “This work will play two important roles,” he said. “First, it is important to diagnose the extent of the problem and to give a clear picture of the spread of illiteracy in our country. Second, relying on the outcome of this course, a long-term strategy can be formulated, which we hope will be completed in the near future.
Mr. Yahya Al-Qayzal indicated that this field survey’s goal is to secure an amount of specialized statistical data related to illiteracy in Yemen. “The purpose of this study is to help planners in making educational programs, especially illiteracy eradication programs,” he explained. “Therefore, the correct data is indispensable and it is important to be accurate when collecting it because statistics is a mirror reflecting reality,” he added.
This survey is considered to be the first of its kind and this course will help the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education Organization formulate its strategy. “There are some technical obstacles that hinder implementing these surveys, but some contacts had been made with the government which expressed its wishes to pay attention to education sector in general and illiteracy eradication in particular.”
In the light of strategy indications, it is possible to determine the financial and human abilities and to distribute the roles to various authorities which can solve this problem together.
Mr. Abdulmalik al-Maalami, Deputy Minister of Education said, “if we succeed in diagnosing the problem and solving it in Sana’a, we will be motivated to go to other governorates to diagnose the problem and make the appropriate strategy.”
Mr. Mohammed Al-Midhwahi said, “there are many problems and impediments and the municipality is working hard and its classrooms are overcrowded with students, especially females. This motivated us to conduct the field survey in Sana’a and we chose 20 quarters of Sana’a (14066 families).”
Mrs. Fawzya Noman said, “after this survey, it is important to have a comprehensive plan. Businessmen and MPs should contribute to implement such plan.”
The number of illiterate people in Sana’a is around 195,000. Due to the steady population growth, many did not find places at state schools when they were at school age. The reasons that made many people out of schools include the return of immigrants, the increase of internal immigration from countryside to urban areas, especially Sana’a which acted as a focal point receiving people either from outside Yemen or from the countryside.

Other causes of illiteracy include:
1- limited education programs and activities due to low budgets;
2- programs and educational subjects do not satisfy the needs of the adult students, especially females;
3- lack of the specialized teachers in this field;
4- women are usually not encouraged by their families to enroll in illiteracy eradication centers;
5- women do not get enough training on necessary female skills; and
6- the local community does not actively participate in the planning, follow-up and financing of adult education programs.

Ahlam Al-Mutawakel,
Yemen Times