Minister of Education Al-Jawfi to YT:”By the end of September about 30% of school principals will be changed” [Archives:2003/667/Culture]

September 11 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
In an interview to Yemen Times, Education Minister Dr. Abdulsalam Al-Jawfi admitted that the educational system is facing some difficulties. He stressed however on his commitment as the Minister of Education to take the necessary measures to carry out the needed reforms.
When asked about the reason behind the fall of education standard and whether the ministry is producing ignorant graduates who can not read and write adequately, al-Jawfi replied “I do not fully agree with this question. Hundreds of Yemeni students are sent to study abroad for postgraduate studies and they are scoring excellent grades and are very meritorious. These students come from our schools. The educational system is not perfect but it is not that bad either. Of course, there are however some problems that need solutions through reform. Education is a dynamic, not static process, and has to be improved and changed every now and then. You have to remove something from here and add something there. Teachers and school principals have to be trained from time to time,” the minister said. He also denied reports that school principals sell certificates and rejected claims that cheating during exams has become very common. “If you are talking about one or two schools, I am not going to defend but I will disagree with you if you are saying it is a phenomenon. We are very strict with such law- breakers. I just gave orders that 20 headmasters in one province should be removed. By the end of September about 30% of school principals will be changed for different reasons including corruption,” he confirmed.

Prioritizing teachers training
Al-Jawfi stressed that his priority as a new minister is training of teachers working in schools. “This is one of the most important points which we will focus on, we will supervise to make sure that the educational system is in good shape and that performance in schools is going on according to our plans and strategies,” he said, adding that “the ministry will take up the task of training teachers and that training will target their own districts and provinces. He said that a big workshop will start mid September in Sana'a to set up six programs to train around 60,000 teachers teaching mathematics and science. The course for this task has been planned and equipment to carry it out have been supplied by the ministry.
With regards to the process of merging the religious institutes that were controlled by Islah party into the ministry, Mr. Al-Jawfi said the process has succeeded and that his ministry is now controlling all schools in the country. “The educational system in Yemen is now one and unified. We have no problem with that. he stressed.

Need for Help
Al-Jawfi denied that the US has asked Yemen to introduce amendments in school curricula that some have accused of standing behind the culture of extremism and terrorism. The minister argued that curricula need reform not because of this accusation but due to the need of the country. “We have never been asked by the Americans or others to do that; we have a committee for curricula which revises them from time to time in view of the need of schooling and of the country,” he said. But when I told him that the Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy in Sana'a told me that the US is interested in helping Yemen reform its educational system, the minister said “helping is different from asking. We are in need of assistance not only from the US but from all donors and the World Bank. They are supporting us and donate to enhance the educational system.” He appreciated the US embassy's decision of introducing computer and internet network programs in some schools in Yemen. “We appreciate that but it has nothing to do with reform of education system,” he said.
He defended the government's decision to set up three ministries for education, arguing that this is not a mess and that logic stands behind it as they all cooperate and work under the cabinet. He said that his ministry focuses on basic and secondary education and that the three ministries are meant to meet the need and expansion of education in the country. He pointed out that there is a need for expanding basic education to make it accessible to all by 2015; that needs hard work and strategies and a lot of programs convincing all people to send their kids to schools. He highlighted the importance of vocational education and technical training as they are linked to development need.
There has been a big fuss about the ministry's decision to call off the work of al-Shawkani institute for teachers training as some teachers at the institute accused ministers coming from university of Sana'a of their interest to make use of the piece of land on which the institute is built, making it a part of the university campus. However, al-Jawfi defended the decision which he said it was taken by the cabinet two years ago, pointing out that his ministry is not a higher education institution, unable to grant diploma for it is mainly concerned with basic and secondary education. He said that they will focus on training which will take place in districts of Sana'a which the institute follows. “We will have 3-4 training centers in the governorate of Sana'a. There are new students at the institute as we have stopped accepting new students in such institutes in all governorates which will become only training centers providing training in the districts and villages. They will be provided with all needed facilities and I think there is a philosophy behind this idea,” he elaborated. In addition, the minister said that the teachers of al-Skawkani institute will be “distributed according to their qualifications in Sana'a city or those who want to move to other institutes are welcome. It is our duty and I promised them that neither the teachers nor the students will be affected.”

Replacement of contracted Arab teachers
The ministry has contracts with over 5000 Arab teachers. Recently the ministry of Civil Service along with education ministry decided to abolish 2000 contracted teachers replacing them by Yemenis. Corruption was one of the main reasons behind keeping such teachers who can be replaced by Yemenis; they have even criticized such decision. Al-Jawfi said that priority should be given to Yemenis. However he said that there can not be a full replacement as his ministry still needs well-qualified and experienced Arab teachers mainly for mathematics and science. “We will evaluate the outcome of this step in order to stop or go ahead with it,” he said, denying allegations that corrupt crooks at the ministry of education are against this step.