What Yemen Lacks: Qualified Individuals [Archives:2000/12/Viewpoint]

March 20 2000

Throughout the years, a major challenge for most companies and employers was to find qualified Yemenis. By ‘qualified Yemenis’ I mean professionally trained Yemenis who realize all aspects of a certain position and work hard to cover the position adequately without leaving behind unfinished work.
As a matter of fact, we, as Yemen Times were among this group of companies who always face difficulty in selecting professional employees who can fill positions in the newspaper in the way we want. We witnessed several times when we place an ad in the paper asking for employees for a certain position, let’s say translator. What we get the next day is hundreds of applications from applicants with various backgrounds, some without even the slightest idea about English language. After days of examinations and tests to those applicants, we are left with no more than a couple of reasonably qualified persons. However, there are times that we realize that no one among all the applicants fits for the job.
We have teachers, but seldom do we find qualified ones, and if the teachers of our children are not qualified to raise these children in an appropriate manner, how can we expect the next generation to be better than the first? We have engineers, doctors, and journalists. But it is not common to find them qualified in their jobs. The same thing applies to our politicians. They are not always the ones who best fit for their positions.
Why is this the case in Yemen? Why do we have a lot of people with very low qualifications? We do not lack labor forces, there is a huge quantity of people willing to work for a living. However, what we actually lack is quality. We were adopting a mechanism of quantity over quality over the years. It all begins from the family. Yemeni families usually have large numbers of children (at least 5.) Taking into consideration the low level of income of these families, the children are not taken care of in a proper manner. The number is too high to taking care of every child and devoting the time and money for his education, etc. This results in the parents neglecting their children, who later become street children with most of their times in the streets with dirty clothes and with low morals and ethics. These very children are then taken to public schools that contain around 100 students in one classroom. You can imagine how crowded the class room would be. How on earth can a student listen to the lecture of his/her teacher when sitting (some times standing because of lack of space) in the last row of the class? The kid continues his routine studies day after day until the end of the year, in which he passes his exams with tremendous difficulty, and sometimes fails and hence repeats the year all over again.
You only need to go to any rural primary school to witness for yourself how these children are being raised. With an average cumulative of 65% for most high school graduates in rural areas, students in these areas are given lowest priority in the academic concept.
When recalling that most of the Yemenis are illiterate and live in rural areas, we would not be surprised to the fact that it would be difficult to find qualified people.
Complaining about the lack of professional and qualified Yemenis is not going to us good. What we should do is to intensify campaigns targeting education, and education of the next generation, as it is obvious that it is too late for the current generation.
It is a very awkward and long-term plan. However, starting it today is always better than starting it tomorrow, and starting it tomorrow is still much better than one week later. It is a matter of commitment, so is our government committed to this long-term process for Yemen of the 21st century? Only time will tell.

Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf             
Chief Editor