Plight of University Students [Archives:1998/08/Culture]

February 23 1998

Athena Al-Absi

When students want to register in the College of Education at Sana’a University, or any other university in Yemen, they have to graduate from high school with a minimum average of 60%. Men also have to finish their military service. After signing, the students names are tabulated, indicating the department in which they are accepted. Then, the students were subjected to an admission exam, oral and written. The average number of students who register in the Department of Philosophy at Sanaa University for example, is nearly 700.
A contract is signed between each student and the university, stipulating that he or she would be paid YR 600 a month and an extra YR 300 every three months. This amount was later increased to YR 950 a month. But, they are not paid monthly. They get paid the total amount every three months.
In return, the contract obliges the student, after graduating, to teach for 5 years in state schools as designated by the Ministry of Education. This is usually arranged by the Ministry of Education and the college of education in the university concerned.
The students are not given their certificates, and are not allowed to work anywhere else until the compulsory 5-year period is over. Students have to have a sponsor, a businessman or the like, in order to sign that contract. If a graduate does not want teach for five years in a state school, as stipulated by the contract, he or she has to pay YR 50,000 and an additional amount of money as a penalty to the university.
The second act of this tragicomedy begins when the students’ marks are not recorded in the university administration’s registers. Some students are surprised to find that they had to re-sit an exam in one subject or more which they happened to pass before. Sometimes, a student has to repeat a whole academic year.
University administrators are not usually fit to carry out their duties. They often come to work and leave as their fancy takes them. Most of the time, they are not in their offices.The top university administrators do not intervene to put an end this state of affairs.
On graduating, the students have to run after the faculty officials to get their signatures as evidence for their graduation. The officials are usually not there and the students have to keep going from one office to another for months. In addition, students have to look for the lecturers all the time in order to know their final marks.
Moreover, the students’ marks are sometimes not correctly calculated and their exam answer papers are mislaid. In a few words, there is not any kind of responsibility shouldered by the university officials, including the dean himself.
The third act of this play takes place at the central office of the Ministry of Education. This time, the graduates have to get the officials’ signatures on their graduation papers in order to be able to be assigned a level of job seniority. The big surprise comes when almost all of the available posts are given to graduates of science colleges. The graduates from the department of Philosophy and other humanities’ departments are excluded. The excuse given is that these graduates are not needed to teach in schools.
The catastrophe is that the rejected graduates are not given their certificates, by which they can apply for another job, until after 4 years from their graduation. They can get employed by using a photocopy of the transcript of their graduation marks only within the first year of their graduation. Therefore, the graduates have to wait until they get their so-called temporary certificate, and no one knows what will happen then. Then the graduate has to wait for another 5 years to get his or her original certificate.
The last act of the graduates’ tragedy is kept open, for it depends totally upon the officials’ mood.