Illiteracy as a major concern to Yemen and the Arab world [Archives:2009/1226/Local News]

January 19 2009

Ismail al-Ghabri
SANA'A, Jan. 17 ) Reports and statistics issued by the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education Systems show that the total number of Yemeni male and female students in these systems has reached a total of 128,465 students. The number of students in various skills improvement centers reached a total of 8,531 students, of them 8 thousand female students.

The head of the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education System, Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Al-Aothali, asserted that the number of classrooms in the various Governorates has increased over the past year, reaching a total of 5,588 classrooms available for both elementary and follow-up courses. A number of projects have also been completed, including construction of their new center in Sana'a. This center cost a total of $200 thousand dollars and was funded by the Islamic Development Bank. Administration buildings concerning illiteracy eradication were also recently established in the Governorates of Shabwa and Sa'ada.

A statement by the Illiteracy Eradication System clarified that in spite of their efforts made to increase the number of students in the adult education centers, the number of illiterate people is expected to rise during the next five years. This means that the current figure of illiterate people, estimated at roughly five and a half million Yemenis, may reach more than seven million people over the next several years.

The situation might worsen if no solution is adopted to address the obstacles that impede the functioning of the illiteracy eradication administration. Such obstacles include a lack of teachers, the scarcity of financial resources, and the operational costs of its branches in a number of Governorates across the country.

The real situation is reflected in statistics issued concerning illiteracy rates in our country. According to the population census of 2004, the illiteracy rate decreased from 56% to 45.7% among the targeted population for Yemenis above ten years of age. According to an updated report, illiteracy rates decreased in urban areas to 25.8% while in rural areas it decreased to 54.3%.

The report added that the decreasing rate of illiteracy reached 20% in the Governorates of Hadramout and Abyan, followed by a rate of 10 to 15% in Sana'a and Aden.

Conversely, the illiteracy rate rose to 50% in the Governorates of al-Jawf, Sa'daa, Hajja, and Raymah, followed by a rate of 40% in the Governorates of Amran, Almahweet, Dhamar, al-Hodeidah . Some of the lowest rates of illiteracy were between 30 and 40% in Lahj, Ibb, Sana'a, Shabwa, Taiz, Albaida, Aldalea, Mareb, and Mahra.

As stated by the report, the reason behind this variation is due to the existing financing gap between urban and rural areas as well as general poverty levels in Yemen overall.

On the other hand, the statistical report issued by the Illiteracy Eradication and Adult Education System indicated that adult education witnessed some positive developments in the past five years, as the number of students enrolled in their literacy programs reached 66,000 students in 2000. This figure increased to 71,000 students throughout the past five years.

Based on the general census of the population for the year 2004, the illiteracy rate among the population aged 10 years and over was 45.7%, with a significant disparity between male and female. Males had an illiteracy rate of 29.8% as opposed to females, 62.1% of which are illiterate.

The census also showed that the proportion of people who are literate reached 31.7% of the total population, which makes more than three-quarters of the population below the level of basic education.

The Third Human Development Report of Yemen stated that illiteracy in Yemen is the product of a long legacy of deprivation and backwardness.

It is estimated that the number of children who are outside of the educational system is around two million boys and girls. These children represent a renewed source of illiteracy.

A specialized report of the education indicators in 2007 issued by the Supreme Council for Educational Planning denoted that despite the increase in literacy and adult education enrollment numbers, the spread of illiteracy negatively impedes the development of society and hinders its pace of progress. This is also despite the increase of training classes and education centers created especially for women.

It is worth mentioning that January 8th is considered the Arab Day for the Eradication of Illiteracy. This day has been sponsored by the Arab Organization for Education, Culture, and Science for more than thirty years and has been taken as an occasion to review all the efforts, activities, and events relevant to this issue in the various Arab countries.