ReflectionsEducation in Yemen, the Greatest sin, everything leading to nothing, and bringing different types of education under state control [Archives:2004/748/Opinion]

June 21 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
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Education in Yemen must be compulsory if one of the objectives of the 26th September revolution is to be met. Unfortunately, due to the daily increase in the costs of living, many children are obliged to leave basic education and join the majority of Yemeni illiterates. Efforts to teach grown-ups ceased due to the lack of official will.
Now, let's turn to public schools and how education is carried out. Most students in Yemen study in public schools, which were largely built by the Yemeni Government and the State of Kuwait. Many are still bearing names chosen by Kuwaitis. Kuwaitis were clever in that they monitored the construction of those schools, which they financed, fearing that money might be channeled to other destinations, as is the case with donations made by other gulf states.
So now wherever you go in Yemen you shall find a school bearing a Kuwaiti name. The names persist and were not affected by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Teaching in Yemen prior to the year 1990 was rather stronger than it is nowadays because highly qualified Arab teachers were hired to do the job by Kuwait and KSA. Nowadays, the government has started to replace other Arabs with Yemenis. This is good, but the problem lies always in the selection because again favoritism and bribery plays the most leading role in choosing who is to be hired and who is not. I know a thief and a counterfeiter who are still working as teachers although they have been jailed several times. What should we expect of such guys? To teach our kids good manners? Many education faculty graduates have to pay big bribes in order to become modest poor teachers.
Teaching itself suffers from the archaic belief in that the student has to cram his head with all the subjects. Pupils at the first grade have to achieve success marks in all subjects in order for them to be promoted to a higher grade. Believe it or not, a kid failing in one subject out of six has to repeat the year twice or thrice. This is why at the end of each scholastic year the students forget everything they learnt. Why don't we employ systems of education as practiced in many developed countries, where students do not have to achieve success marks in all subjects? They can achieve success in three or even one and still be able to complete secondary education. If the student likes one subject he would be able to follow it up until he graduates from university and thus we can have scientists in all fields.
So let us stop the habit of cramming the heads of children by learning all types of subjects and the memorization of countless Koranic verses and poems. Each and every student has got his own inclination. Let us not complicate education and cause unnecessary complications for the young generation. Repeating years is harmful and unnecessary, and it is the greatest sin practiced by our Ministry of Education. I know an intelligent student in physics, chemistry and mathematics who had to repeat the third year of secondary education three times because he was less enthusiastic about Arabic and Islamic education. By the way, he is now a maniac, roaming the surroundings of his village, because of our failing education system.
Public schools suffer from crowding, sale of text books on the black market, inefficient inspection, sale of promotion certificates, sale of headmasterships, having to succeed in all subjects, cheating and leakage of exam questions to certain students who manage to pay the necessary bribes. The students pay for the books at the beginning of the year, return them at the end of the year and pay for any book torn or missing. In addition to books sold in the market some are smuggled abroad.
While private schools claim that they provide privileged education. In fact, all they care for is money collection so the students graduating from these schools come out with a complete sense of adoration of the money deity. Because the owners of such schools are obsessed with money they some times mistakenly ask money from those who have paid various times. Here students do not have to worry about their promotion as long as they are paying fees on time.
State administrative pilferers who claim that their riches are inherited own most of these schools. Students are also often from a rich minority, themselves funded by administrative pilferers.
While the government should permit private schooling, much attention should be paid to public schools. Please let us succeed in this at least.
The government was right in the unification of education but has not completed this process. Still there are private schools teaching children how to become religious extremists and time bombs. So more efforts should be exerted in order to bring all types of education under state control and we must do away with futile extremist education.