Schools dropouts: Economics, neglect, or apathy? [Archives:2007/1020/Reportage]

January 29 2007
Dare to play hookey: Punishments and rebukes do not detter some students from escaping classes.
Dare to play hookey: Punishments and rebukes do not detter some students from escaping classes.
By: Yemen Times Staff
While illiteracy is about to disappear in most countries, primary and secondary education is compulsory in many countries and both the government and the family essentially are responsible for educating children and observing/monitoring them, many [Yemeni?] students drop out and skipping school/classes.

According to the higher council for educational planning regarding 2004-2005,the percentage of Yemeni students dropping out of basic education reached 9.66 percent, while failing amounted to 5.2 percent. The highest percentage of dropping out of grade 1 by both sexes accounted for 13.7 percent.

When passing near any Yemeni school, one can find many students hanging around the school with the acquaintance knowledge of some school administrations. This is in addition to students who totally drop out of school. In seeking the reasons students escape and drop out of school, we find that the reasons are various and different such as poverty, the weak roles of the government, the schools administrations and the families.

Some Yemeni students skip school during class time due to the uncomfortable school environment. Mohammed Ameen, a 14-year-old eighth grader, admits, “I often attend class only until 10 a.m. because I'm bored and feel like I'm imprisoned. The class is overcrowded, which makes it noisy, and after 10 a.m., the weather gets hotter.”

In some students` viewpoints, only certain subjects are important and require more explanation and concentration, so they attend all of those classes while other subjects are meaningless or easy to study without a teacher's help. Tenth grader Najeeb Amer notes, “I attend only scientific subjects like mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology. As for the other subjects, I study them myself at home as self-study.”

Due to a lack of teaching staff, many Yemeni school administrations force teachers to teach subjects unrelated to their specializations and as a result, their performance is weak. Student Al-Khader Mahmoud, 17, comments, “Our teacher is incompetent because his specialization is history and he teaches us Arabic. When we ask about anything, he eludes our enquiries, so we skip those periods.”

Unqualified teachers are the main reason some students don't attend some class periods. Student Aimn Al-Najar, 15, says, “I feel that I receive nothing from my teacher. We don't understand things from him and he doesn't try to change his teaching methods to simplify the ideas for us. He's incompetent.”

A low economic state is the main reason students drop out of school completely. Due to poverty and bad circumstances, many students seek jobs to support their families, especially those students in secondary school.

Bassam Al- Mahwiti, 19, explains, “I left school two years ago when I became responsible for my family after my father's death. I want to continue my school studies, but no one will care for my family.” Likewise, Rashad Al-Nehmi, 20, says, “I left school five years ago to help my father with his work. He's a welder and earns very little, so I must help him.”

However, some Yemeni students have no hopes or ambitions regarding their future aims. Thus, they hopelessly acquire information yet are unable to listen because they have no psychological appetite to attend school. Their bodies are in the classroom, but their minds remain outside.

One reason for students' absentmindedness may be problems at home. “My father always shouts at me and he sometimes imprisons me after school. He doesn't advise me to do my assignments. For this reason, I don't wish to continue my studies after secondary graduation,” Amran Al-Saem says disappointedly.

Looking forward to the future, Yemeni students find no job opportunities for themselves or even for their post-graduate friends. Helplessly, many college graduates remain unemployed. Also, some families stand with students who drop out of school under the pretext that there are no jobs for university graduates.

Naser Al-Himyari, a father of five sons says, “Two of my sons finished studying at the university four years ago and they haven't gotten jobs until now. I think my other children are right if they don't want to continue their studies.”

Other parents stand with students who drop out of school, but in another way. Mansour Al-Amer, a 45-year-old father of six, says, “I think we have to not keep obliging students to go to school if they have no interest, but rather to discover their interests and push them toward their interests.” Father of eight Kasim Al-Hori comments, “I asked my son to leave school in order to help me with the household expenditures.”

But some parents' viewpoints are totally different and offer a positive aspect. Ali Al-Hamdani, a father of three sons and two daughters, feels that both families and schools are responsible to follow up students and both must be in constant contact.”

Additionally, many Yemeni students study to satisfy their parents' intentions rather than for the importance of education and knowledge. Thus, such students attend school simply to waste time and chat with their friends. The phenomenon increases, especially among students from rich families, who live in relaxation and believe everything is in their hands.

“You see, teacher, studying is hard and gives me a headache. Inshallah, I'll go to America and work in a supermarket. I'll marry, buy a big beautiful house and the latest model car and I'll live happier than you,” says one Yemeni-American student. However, such students actually have no idea how to exploit their comfortable and prosperous situations to go on to higher education, either in Yemen or in the United States.

Generally, teachers try to advise their students by either telling them true stories or making them plan their own futures. “Historically, observers recognize that most famous individuals who pushed the world's wheels forward were either rich or poor. The rich exploited money to improve and achieve their ambitions. One way or another, they overcame their ill omens. Other reputable rich men found money destroying them, so they left to build their own future,” one English teacher commented.

“To the contrary, in spite of poverty, some famous men defeated harsh circumstances and life's obstacles to obtain what they were seeking. Students must look at such famous individuals and learn their lessons from them. Achieving one's goal isn't as easy as drinking a glass of water and scoring goals doesn't happen all at once as a result of a hodgepodge,” he added.

Like boys, many girls drop out of school mainly due to poverty or marriage. Naseem Sa'ad, 20, explains, “I had to drop out of school two years ago because my father died. We now live with my uncle and he can't bear the expenditures for studying.”

Amel Al-Raimi, 21, is another student unable to withstand her family tradition of marrying at an early age. “Although I dreamed of continuing my studies and graduating from university, I dropped out of school in 10th grade because I got married. However, I always remember my school days and I hope to go back one day,” she says.

Although students of both genders drop out of school, the rate differs and the factors causing girls to drop out are more reasonable than those for boys. Shafeka Al-Nazari, schoolmaster at Mohammed Zaid School, says, “I admit that the dropout rate for girls is large, but most girls can't help the cause, such as early marriage or a father's oppressiveness and greed; consequently, a father obliges his daughter to marry early.

“Failing, difficulty with the curriculum and stern punishment from both teachers and families also cause girls to drop out,” she adds.

The main difference between boys and girls is that practically no girls skip certain class subjects, whereas others attend because of accurate observation of students. “You'll never find a girl skipping some class periods and attending others because teachers take attendance secretly to determine absent girls. If a teacher finds any girl absent, we investigate and send for her father,” Al-Nazari explains.

Contrary to many boys who drop out of school under the pretext that there are no job opportunities, girls don't hold such a pessimistic viewpoint. “Girls are more optimistic and stick to completing their education more than boys. They don't care about working as much as they care about completing their education,” Al-Nazari adds.

Others within the education system attribute many reasons for students dropping out and skipping school. Physical education teacher Mohammed Al-Ansi says, “Actually, the school, the family and the government are responsible for this problem – the student is just a victim. All of these parties should cooperate to solve the reasons for students' problems. The government should develop citizens' financial income. Also, contact between the family and the school should be constant in order to determine the student's trend and then push him or her toward his or her field of interest.”

psychologist teacher Jamil Al-Harazi adds, “Financial problems and television play an important role in deviating student behavior, which, over time, makes students hate their reality and drop out of school.”

Many school administrations take particular initiative to alleviate poverty and help very poor students continue their studies. Al-Nazari is one such schoolmaster who decided with her school staff to form a committee to collect donations in order to enable destitute students to continue their studies.

“Some elite teachers at the school collect donations from businessmen to buy the basic needs of destitute students, in addition to health care, which they receive in order to help them continue studying. Not only that, every teacher willingly donates approximately YR 500 every month for these students. Consequently, every student receives YR 2,500 per month,” she explains.

Al-Nazari notes that the committee's efforts aren't sufficient to help all destitute students because the number of poor students is large and the contributions of the businessmen and school staff aren't enough to cover all of the poor students. “Many students complain and ask us to enroll their names,” she adds.

According to 2004-2005 education indicators of Yemen's Higher Council for Educational Planning, Ministry of Education data points out that failure and dropout rates are increasing among males and females, which leads to the low growth of basic education internal efficiency.

The education indicators summarize the reasons for Yemeni students failing and dropping out of school due to the following: school-age children aren't enrolled at the required age, thus crowding classrooms with large numbers of students; weak and unqualified teachers using poor methods to punish students cause many to think of leaving school; and school infrastructure is both unattractive and discouraging, especially school furnishings.

The rate of females in all secondary education grades dropping out of school is higher than males. However, dropout rates for male students in grade 12 are higher than females due to their families' low income, which forces them to work instead of completing their studies. All of these reasons and others negatively affect the Yemeni education system's internal efficiency.