Unemployed graduates volunteer between anvil of discrimination and hammer of poverty [Archives:2006/1006/Reportage]

December 11 2006

Abdulwahab Al-Sofi
[email protected]

A truer word never was spoken: Yemeni volunteers seeking employment. Many teachers voluntarily teach at government schools for years, hopefully awaiting their turn to receive official employment from Civil Service. Others volunteer in various governmental sectors hoping to receive their main employment.

In fact, such volunteers are victims of false promises by school administrators. When schools face a teacher shortage, they seek such unlucky graduates to fill the positions. They then volunteer for years without receiving even recognition for their hard work.

To the contrary, these volunteer teachers were astonished to see new graduates employed which whets their souls and fills them with a sense of frustration. Moreover, some lose their glimmer of hope completely and then prefer to sit at home.

In this regard, when visiting numerous places looking for such volunteers, one easily can find them everywhere – some of whom are willing to talk about their suffering – discovering that there are more women volunteers than men, who have less patience than women to work voluntarily for a long time.

Another volunteer at Hodeidah University has worked five years, hoping to receive her official employment and suffering ill treatment by administration. Additionally, she couldn't believe when her colleagues received their employment before her, whereas, “I patiently wait for my dream to come true,” she says.

Teacher Noura Ahmed Ismail has taught voluntarily at Al-Sa'eed School since 1997, specializing in the Qur'an and its science. “I renew my enrollment at Civil Service every year, hoping to be one of the lucky ones to receive annual employment. My name never is written on the list of candidates awaiting a vacancy. However, what is a pity is that I saw my colleagues' names, who then received employment, and new graduates receive their employment every year.”

She adds, “I wrote many letters to those responsible for crediting me a vacancy like the other new graduates. However, they ignored my demand completely, as if I wasn't a citizen. Simply put, we volunteers are destitute of justice, but I still hope to receive mercy from our principals,” she says.

One teacher has taught in a school five years because she has received promises of future employment, but such promises usually lead to nothing. “I pay YR 200 to go to school,” she explains, “but it seems I await nothing except more suffering.”

Teacher Hanan expressed her sorrow that she's taught for five years at Al-Sa'eed School as a volunteer, hoping to receive an education vacancy. “Although I have a literature degree, I'm eager to be a teacher. For two years, I tried to complete my university studies, but I couldn't due to my bad circumstances,” she added.

Another Hodeidah University volunteer narrated her story as follows: “After I finished my lengthy study and graduated from university, I started struggling for survival and searching for a suitable job. Preferring the teaching field, I visited every private school in my region. Ultimately, I taught in private schools for three years, during which time I experienced many difficulties and sufferings like I'd never seen before.

“Despite such work, the salary was insufficient for my personal disbursement and transportation. I'm embarrassed to mention it because it's only about YR 8,000 per month. It's ridiculous, but it's the truth.

“Moreover, ill treatment by the private school owners added insult to injury; thus, I decided to go to university because I had a glimmer of hope for a vacancy there. I began working as a volunteer two years ago and thus far, I'm awaiting my turn to be employed,” she concluded.

Actually, what's narrated above are but a few instances representing many such stories across Yemen, the majority of which belong to society's lower class. On the other hand, those in the higher class (the rich) never once volunteer, receiving their employment automatically.

The following question should be raised: Are the promises of our decision-makers under the umbrella of reformation? The tremendous responsibility rests upon the government. The attitude of those responsible toward these volunteers is completely negative. Such volunteers are part and parcel of our community. Is their sentence of guilt that they must complete their studies? Alternatively, is such neglect their reward?

Saif Ali Al-Zuraiqi, deputy manager of the Hodeidah Civil Service office, commented, “Volunteers in education or other government sectors aren't on our agenda. They aren't our consideration to give priority to appointing them. We never advise people to work as volunteers.”

So, what are the criteria for distributing employment to new graduates instead of older graduates?

“We select our nominees according to several main criteria: annual grade point average, date of graduation and the regions in which nominees live are taken into consideration,” Al-Zuraiqi explained.

“Rumors narrated here and there regarding employment recommendations and supporters, known as vitamin (waw) in Arabic means “recommendation or bribe” are untrue. We select our nominees according to certain criteria already mentioned above,” he added.

However, reality tells the reverse. Many real-life examples demonstrate how people manipulate others. Having majored in English language at Hodadah University's Faculty of Education, Sawsen graduated five years ago with a very good average, but isn't employed yet. She suffered a lot in order to obtain an education vacancy, but in vain. Each year, she receives a glimmer of hope due to news about the advent of new positions, but ultimately, such news turns to disappointment as soon as it's declared.

Sawsen was one of the most intelligent students among her university classmates, but what a pity that all of her colleagues received employment except her. Therefore, she wiped her tears and resorted to practicing her English by teaching in a private school. Her salary is only YR 10,000 per month, which is insufficient for her daily disbursement and transportation. Hoping to achieve her end, she has decided to get her Master's degree in education.

Yemeni youths shoulder a great responsibility to build in every field. The government should provide work and create jobs for all citizens wanting it because when an individual finds work, he then can provide a decent, free and respectable living for himself and his family.