Specialist programs prioritize developmen [Archives:2006/1006/Local News]

December 11 2006

Aziz A. Alhadi
For the Yemen Times

A major criticism of Yemen's universities is that university programs and research do not address the problems faced by the society at large.

Recent program announcements by the Sana'a Universities and Aden University indicate that if the charge held merit in the past, an about face for the future has begun and is receiving a high measure of praise.

The announcements were made by expert centers in Sana'a and Aden. The new specialist graduate programs are designed to address urgent development priorities in the area of water management, public service and gender. The programs will be at Sana'a University's Water and Environment Centre and the Center for Public Administration and at Aden University's Woman's Centre for Training and Research.

Unlike the sporadic one-shot training programs of the past, all three centers, supported primarily by grants provided from the Netherlands through the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education, were established to provide the universities with a sustainable in-house specialist capacity to address pressing development needs of society in both the short and long terms.

Although less than two years in development, Mohamed Al-Mottahar, vice minister of higher education and scientific research, says the programs are “models of focused program development and development cooperation.” Al-Mottahar is in charge of overseeing the programs being developed under the Netherlands organization, which aims at strengthening Yemen's institutional capacity in education and training.

The program is helping universities and the public change the image of Yemen.

One encouraging development is the obvious agreement those working on the programs. In the case of the water management programs for example, the strategies of both the Water Ministry converged with that of Higher Education, the Dutch Aid program, the World Bank and the University of Sana'a.

Another highlight is the developing theme of “integration.” As the Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation stated recently, “Everything is connected to everything else. The current practice of dealing with issues separately is in adequate. To ensure sustainable development, the state needs to work in partnership with all stakeholders.”

The most welcomed development is in line with what the Minister of Higher Education, Saleh BaSira has outlined for Yemeni researchers.

BaSira addresses the need for research into specific development problems in Yemeni society and all these centers are working toward BaSira's goal.

Most recently, at a meeting of experts organized by the Water Centre, a group of international and regional experts met for four days to study the issue of how Yemen can benefit from the reuse of wastewater for irrigation. This study shows the move toward linking higher education and research.