New school buildings need immediate renovation [Archives:2008/1163/Local News]

May 12 2008

By: Almigdad Mojalli
SANA'A, June 10 ) A recent study conducted by the German Education and Training organization (GET) in Ibb, Marib, Lahj and Hajja governorates showed that 10 percent of the schools that the GET built in 2002 showed signs of serious deterioration and are in need of immediate remodeling. Additionally, over 50 percent of the schools that GET visited had none or very little maintenance work done to them since the facilities were handed over to the Yemeni authorities for use.

On Tuesday, GET held a workshop where they announced the study's findings and helped the Ministry of Education to analyze school building costs.

Abdulsallam Al-Jawfi, the Minister of Education, said it was important to design schools according to local requirments, using the suitable raw materials for the dry, cold or hot areas. “We now have a school plan, which we can depend on, to know the needs of the educational process of school buildings, teachers and instructional aids,” said Al-Jawfi. The study lasted for 11 months and aimed to better school construction in terms of educational requirements and cost effectiveness, which included maintenance. It also will be used as a basis for ongoing revision of national regulations with regards to school construction in Yemen.

In over 40 percent of the 50 inspected schools, the buildings and premises aren't cleaned regularly, increasing the risk of vermin and disease. Students' sanitary facilities were locked and flush toilet systems weren't functional due to either a shortage of water or a cut in the supply line.

The study attributed the lack of maintenance to three main reasons. First was the absence of funds for maintenance activities. The second reason was that maintenance fell by the wayside in favor of prestigious new school construction activities. Third, the maintenance procedures and manuals were complicated, inefficient and largely ignored. These three factors lead to rapid a decline in the schools within short period of time and created a need for major rehabilitation work or construction of new schools far sooner than the GET had anticipated.

According to the study, 69 percent of schools visited required urgent remedial works in order to prevent more costly remedial works in future. If a school needs major rehabilitation or replacement within 10 years of its construction, the costs of running it almost double. Each school was expected to be in use for approximately 32 years.

Many of the newer GET schools were actually replacements for existing schools that failed to reach the end of their planned lifecycle due to lack of maintenance.

There is a shortage of classroom furniture, though piles of abandoned school benches – called “furniture graveyards”” – are common.

The best-maintained schools were the ones where the community voluntarily contributed financially or through personal service to the operation and maintenance of the facilities.