This is an OPINION page. Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS on a pertinent issue! The Future of Yemeni Students [Archives:1997/48/Focus]

December 1 1997

By: Mohmoud M. Mahyoub Al-Samei*
One of the main features of our country today is the high growth rate of the Yemeni population. The annual growth rate (the different between the gross birth and death rates) is estimated at around 3.7%. This rapid growth has been reflected on many things. But one visible result is the bulging student population. One cannot help but notice a great number of students. This number increases year after year. “Yemen Times” in an article in a previous volume shows that, there are nearly 4 million children in schools today. The troubling part of the Yemen Times story is that this number represents half the school-age population. Another troubling dimension is that girls have far less access to education than boys. I also heard on a Yemeni-TV show that the number of students. who applied for the High School Leaving Certificate examinations this year was nearly 200,000. We can now calculate the job opportunities required by this rising flow of high school graduates. This is reason to pause. We must ask ourselves and our government the following questions: 1) Where will the great number of students go? 2) What are the plans of the government (and society) to employ these students? 3) How can the government face up to the challenge of this rapid growth of graduates?
Given the conditions of our economy, we already notice that unemployment is a major problem. Some of these jobless people are highly trained. For example, in another Yemen Times article, we were told that some 300 oil engineers are waiting for job openings. There are also many accountants, agricultural scientists, medical doctors, etc., who are wandering here and there looking for jobs which are readily available. Some of these graduates will find jobs faster than others, especially in the private sector. These are the ones with skills which the market demands, mostly in the earth sciences. The problem lies with the graduates of humanities, such as sociology, law, arts, and education. The graduates of those fields have no real marketable skills, and most of them end up working as clerks in some office or as teachers.
We know that Yemen suffers from an illiteracy problem. The president has repeatedly said that it is not necessary for all students to go to the universities. He says they have to turn to professional and vocational training. He especially mentioned the skills and professions needed, such as carpenters, mechanics and other jobs. This statement by the president was confirmed by the Prime Minister in an interview and recorded by the “Yemen Times” newspaper. When he says studying in the universities is a waste of time, one can say that this statement may make all the students despair. We know that our country is underdeveloped, that is to say it is not productive and Yemen people are consumers not producers. But we should not forget that our country is one of the world’s oil producing countries, and in the near future will be producing a substantial amount of natural gas. This gives us hope to see Yemen improve rapidly.
As students and graduates we have to tell the government headed by Faraj Bin Ghanim to face the rapid growth of graduates. We also have to tell him and his government to help the graduates by creating job opportunities instead of destroying the hope of students and graduates. In my opinion, I believe that, it is impossible for any country to improve unless it has scientists and intellectuals among its people. So the government must simplify all the problems the students face. It must also give special care to intelligent and creative students, by sending them abroad for higher and technological education. The government must also spend special care in the field of technology by sending the well qualified students to the developed countries and establish technological fields here in Yemen to enable the graduates to follow any new developments in the field. By comparing Yemen and Iraq and Egypt one can see that Yemen is very weak compared to these two countries. I personally believe that the Iraqi president and government is very intelligent because they both help train enlightened people. So Iraqis have to follow the right path to become technologically trained. If we also make a comparison between the Yemeni and Egyptian graduates we will find that Yemeni graduates represent 5% of Egyptian graduates, and we have never heard that Egyptian government says studying in the universities is a waste of time. In my study of English literature I read that during the first attempt of Britain to raise its standard of higher education, a British King paid gold to any author of any book, and the amount of gold was as heavy as the book that was written. The king wanted to improve his country by raising the number of students. I have also read that he helped the intelligent students who were sons of poor families. He gave them sufficient salaries, sometimes he sent them abroad for a higher education.
Now every one of us knows and sees the improvement England has reached. We must also ask ourselves what is the cause of the American development in every field of knowledge? And how did America became the master of the world?
By these statements and examples, I wanted just to show that our country must be improved and our students and graduates must be considered. I wanted also to show that we have a great number of creative students. They have strong intentions to study and improve their country but they need help and employment by the government. _________________
* Mr. Mohmoud Mohammed Mahyoub Al-Samei is a graduate of the English Department of the College of Arts at Taiz University.