Visions are Contagious TESOL 2000 Yemen National TESOL Conference [Archives:2000/22/Culture]

May 29 2000

By Marie Hurlburt,
Chief Coordinator/ Committee Head
On November 13th-15th, at the Movenpick/Aden Hotel in Aden, there will be a TESOL Conference that is sponsored by the British Council, American Embassy, and the Yemen Ministry of Education.
There will be keynote speakers from the USA, UK, and the Gulf States as well as well known publishers. We will also have the British and American Ambassadors at the opening reception. There will be over 60 workshops, during the conference, where Yemen teachers/educators will be trained in the latest English teaching methods and techniques. Experts in the field, both Yemeni and foreign, will present papers and research on the most effective ways to teach English to people of all ages, and address specific issues pertaining to Yemen. We will have educators present from both public and private primary schools, colleges, and language institutes.
This project is the result of one man’s vision. That man is the former Director of the British Council, Brendan McSharry. He visited many Yemeni schools during his five-year tenure and realized that effective English acquisition is vital for the new generation of Yemeni people, if they are going to move effectively into the global economy. He decided to act on his vision and he contacted Chris Eccel, PAO at the American Embassy, to ask if they could share mutually in the formation of a TESOL conference and a new National TESOL organization to be formed during the conference. These men put up over $10,000 out of their budgets to launch the conference. They then met with the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. Majeed Ghanem, and were given his full endorsement. He has graciously assumed the role of Conference Chairman.
I arrived in early September 1999, as an English Teaching Fellow, granted by a program sponsored by the US State Department. My host institution is YALI and I was recruited, to teach, train, and advise at Yali, but work as Coordinator for the Conference. So you can see this is a project that has been in the planning for a long time.
Our first step was to involve as many Yemeni educators as we could, so we formed a committee. This is not a committee that sits around and discusses problems, we could spend many fruitless hours doing that, but this is a committee that has caught the vision and is working hard on solutions to the problems of teaching English in Yemen. We meet every two weeks and give reports on what has been accomplished, so it is a committee with accountability and commitment. People on the committee are not paid to be there. They freely give of their time and talent. We have a well- rounded committee with people from the private sector, private schools, the British Council and the American Embassy. Dr. Majeed Ghanem and Mahmoud Saeed, from the Ministry of Education are committee members and attend regularly. They are supportive to the committee members. John Scacco, the Director of Yali, is helping us recruit our keynote speakers and has graciously released me from my duties at Yali to work fulltime on the conference.
Brendan felt it was very important to involve the private business sector. So I am currently involved with recruiting sponsors from the business community who will financially support this endeavor and also keep this project accountable. It has been my privilege to meet some of the most wonderful, professional, and caring business people that Yemen has to offer. They are General or Country Managers who represent our current primary sponsors and are from companies like: Pizza Hut, P&G, Clorox, YCIC, Yemen Co. for Pkg. Material, Graphics Int. Press, Yemenia Airlines, Yemen Times, Movenpick Hotel. The thing that impressed me the most was that these men truly care about the conference’s vision and want not only excellent English education but overall excellent education, in Yemen. They have shared their concerns and their hopes for the future in regard to their own children’s future education here. The people I have met have been mostly from Sana’a, Taiz and Aden. I hope to increase my contacts to every province in Yemen as I solicit more business sponsorship. A General manager, who is from Egypt, is concerned about English education, in Yemen, and spoke to me about having no problem finding talented people to fill positions in his company but that their poor English ability is a liability in their overall performance. All these business leaders speak excellent English and know the important role English plays today if one is to be successful, especially in international business and the educational field.
Our logo is the famous Yemen Shahara Bridge and our slogan says,” English Bridges the Gap.” English has already bridged the gap in bringing together so many people, from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries, which share a common commitment to higher standards of English teaching, in Yemen. Many of us have caught the vision and share Brendan’s vision and that is why I say it is contagious. I hope it spreads all over Yemen and that more and more business people, educators, and students will want to be involved and work toward this vision!
You may contact me at my office: 967-1-203-364 anytime. If you are interested in sponsoring this project, doing a workshop/presenting a paper, or being involved in the future TESOL organization that will be formed.