Hussein Hazib:Anyone who fights corruption faces corruption [Archives:2006/1003/Reportage]

November 30 2006

By: Mohammed Al-Jabri
An interview with Hussein Hazib, head of Sana'a governorate's Education Office.

How do you assess girls' education in the countryside and to what extent is their turnout in education?

The problem here lies in the methods that encourage girls' education. Educational institutions aren't established in a way that encourages girls to join. Also, the number of female teachers in the countryside is insufficient. The biggest problem for girls begins when they reach seventh grade because that's where they're forbidden or unwilling to continue their education because the teacher is male. The government is monitoring this issue and trying to address it, but requirements thus far haven't been met.

The problem will remain as such, however, if girls in the countryside aren't given job opportunities. We notice that after women receive job posts, they complain to the Sana'a governor or the head of the Education Office that they can only work in the city of Sana'a. It's a big problem, indeed. I can say that the girls' educational level in Sana'a governorate is good, as 28 to 38 percent are in school, but truancy still occurs when they reach ninth grade.

The beginning of this academic year began slowly. What mechanism ensures that the curriculum is taught and finished on time?

Well, we've made much effort and increased the number of classes, as shown in their class timetable. Last September, people were very busy with the elections, although it involved only one day for them to vote. Then came Ramadan, followed by the eid vacation. But after that, we sent supervising teams into schools and everyone (including teachers) felt like they had lost part of this academic year but should continue their efforts at that stage.

Compared to last year, has the education situation improved and what are your aims this year?

The situation is better than last year in many aspects. In fact, we've had various aims since my 2004 appointment as head of this office. First, we found an administrative flaw, wherein some employees were teaching in one location while receiving their salaries in another, but we overcome this problem. Further, we reformed the office's relationship with the Ministry of Finance, as well as incorporated society into educational issues. Citizens also are our aim because we're keen to bring the educational experience to them.

We now meet with local councils in each district and [prominent] social figures, where we clarify educational issues and problems for them. We ask [the local councils] to be cooperative because we've authorized them to discuss these problems, including lack of textbooks, chairs, etc. We found the local councils very approachable and responsive. However, at the same time, they were surprised to realize that they bear part of the responsibility for faults in the education process because they didn't follow up education workers in their districts.

Another issue involves chairs. This year, no student will study without a chair. The Minister of Education first announced this aim and we've achieved most of it. Other aims include managing final exams, which previously didn't go smoothly. A few years ago, a day before final exams approached, thousands of students searched in vain for their exam notices in order to be allowed to sit an exam and complete their education files. But thank God, we didn't have this problem last year because we made much effort.

We also aim to convince local councils to allocate society's [financial] allocations for educational institutions because there are no allocations for such institutions. We also work toward achieving the Ministry of Education's aims.

Why do some localities and villages still lack sufficient numbers of teachers?

Sana'a governorate isn't attractive for teachers. Secondly, this governorate's students don't study the most required specializations, like math and English. Most teachers are hired from other governorates to teach here. However, some of these teachers teach for a short time and then look for influential figures in order to teach in other locations. Locals want a school in each village without considering how to provide teachers for them.

Expanding the school system without teachers figures prominently, especially as there are teachers who move to other governorates without finding replacements for them. Sana'a is the only governorate from which teachers move, but to which no teacher is moved into. To tackle this issue, we designated only one day in August to allow those teachers with legal exceptions to move to other governorates.

Also, as a teacher is hired to teach a specific specialization, we often find that a sheikh, prominent social figure or a political party will move that teacher to work in administration but not teaching.

We now insist that only six people work in every administrative department while others teach. Also, we oblige headmasters and their deputies to teach half the number of classes as ordinary teachers. We also insist on bringing schools together into one district, an issue we put before local councils.

Other problems include the stance of local councils, as they hold themselves separate from teachers: they don't blame teachers who don't perform their tasks. [The Education Office] no longer is directly responsible for this, so we should ask the local councils to do this, not vice versa.

Sana'a governorate teachers are teaching subjects in which they're not specialized. What's your comment on this?

Headmasters and heads of educational centers commit such violations. We don't accept such behavior and we punish those who allow it. In fact, the reason for this is that teachers specialized in needed subjects don't prefer to work in certain schools.

Headmasters and heads of educational centers bear diplomas or high school certificates. On what basis do you appoint them?

This is the result of the past few decades. What we do now is appoint only those who meet the requirements and deal with current headmasters and district heads fairly. If they work well, it's OK. Many were appointed when they had only a high school certificate, but they continued their higher education.

To what extent do you depend on decentralization in running the Education Office?

We're perhaps the only sector applying a decentralized system. I can say frankly that no other sector except education has applied decentralization fully. We ask local councils and the committee assigned to amend local authority law in order to set strict regulations regarding the technical and educational side, which should be assigned to the Education Office.

When a district head or local council secretary-general appoints a teacher or an inspector, that's not within his authority. People mix education tasks with administrative and financial tasks. The latter should be within the local authority, whereas education should be centralized. If any official can direct and issue orders, then things won't go well.

While decentralization has reduced our problems, it has created others. The reason for this is misunderstanding of the law, but I support a decentralized system.

Why do many Sana'a governorate teachers do their work while wearing traditional dress?

Many schoolteachers don't adhere to wearing official uniforms, coming to work in their traditional clothes. I have this problem even at this office where I issued orders not to allow any education worker to enter unless he's in official uniform. We would be considered oppressors if we oblige students to wear school uniforms while teachers don't.

What are the main problems you encounter in the Education Office?

There are three main problems. The first involves us (education workers) and is represented by negligence in our performance. The second problem regards society, which has two sides: one related to tribal-social problems and the other represented by tribal, social and partisan interests. When we inaugurate schools or announce vacant jobs, these problems come to the forefront, but we handle them quietly.

The third problem involves those higher than us and who direct us. We sometimes have differences with them but, thank God, we cope with them easily. However, a bigger problem occurs when we talk about those [officials] equal to us in the Ministry of Civil Service and the Ministry of Finance, who go outside their duties and the law, as if only they are honest.

I think the one who appointed me to head the Education Office was wrong to do so without giving me the power to order a pay out of even 10 riyals. Therefore, I can say that when the office was authorized to sign checks, the faults were very few, but today's faults are bigger. These issues aren't codified, but rather, they go according to mood. Anyway, the financial system never complies with the current situation, so they should review it.

Why is the educational level of Sana'a governorate students deteriorating?

I think I referred to this issue above. The problem also exists when high school and diploma graduates teach students basic education without knowing what good education means. Students in Sana'a governorate live within five walls: the four walls of the classroom and the fifth is the teacher.

Are there any private schools in Sana'a governorate?

Very few, but the Capital Secretariat's Education Office granted them licenses. There aren't more than seven such schools, but we'll work to shut them down until they come under this office.

Is it true that there are teachers still receiving their salaries while they're at home or working other jobs, with the understanding that heads of educational centers and headmasters will share their salaries?

You should ask this question of the local councils because they've been responsible for paying teacher salaries since 2002, so they must follow up such cases. If we discover any case like this, we take strict measures against such individuals. The question of whether heads of educational centers or headmasters share the salaries of these teachers is an accusation that exists, but without evidence. We're convinced it's there and we've worked to overcome such problems. In fact, yesterday, we agreed with the higher postal authority that teachers will receive their salaries at post offices. There are no allocations for educational institutions because this is a door to corruption.

Is it true, as some say, that the Sana'a governorate's Educational Office is famous for corruption?

The changes for the better we've recently made have affected the interests of many. For example, when we decided not to allow teachers to move to other governorates and when we solved the problem of final exams, this also affected the interests of many people. [These people] now want to insult us with charges of corruption. I challenge – in the literal sense of the word – anyone to bring evidence that we're corrupt in. They can't because there's no evidence. I admit that there are shortcomings regarding employees' attendance, but people should understand that the people of Sana'a governorate come from the countryside. They come to the office between 10 a.m. and noon, after which they return home, but they still are available. We also work outside the office on weekends, during qat sessions and until late at night. Anyone saying the office is corrupt is being unfair simply because he was affected by our strict procedures. Anyone who fights corruption faces corruption and is insulted.