Yemeni Youth after Graduation: A Journey of Trouble and Despair [Archives:2000/28/Focus]

July 10 2000

Nadwa Al-Dawsari
Women’s Studies Center,
Sana’a University
Starting point
On entering a college, one feels that s/he is coming to a different kind of life. It is a new kind of studying and a new kind of teaching experience based on different theories and applications, very different from the high school system. Usually, students start enthusiastically, attending lectures regularly and doing assignments, etc, especially if they study in an area of their interest. Eventually, students develop new skills and capacities. As they graduate, they are qualified to work in different fields in society. Some of them do not reach this level however, as a consequence of many shortcomings in our under-graduate education system, quite apart from the numerous material and moral difficulties students regularly face in the course of their studies.
These graduates may have some idea about practical work life, but they are not that clear and specific. Generally speaking, they come out with optimistic views about their future. As a graduate of the year 1998, let me just reflect upon my experience to give an account of the difficulties that a graduate may face in our country:
1. Specialization and its relevance
Most of university students in Yemen go for specialization in certain faculties that do not have any practical value in the work field. Large numbers of them study, for example, geography, history, philosophy, etc. You can notice that the least numbers of university students study English. The reasons behind this can be specified as follows:
a) Most of the students come from poor families and they have to work while studying. For that, they register as casual students (students who are not required to compulsorily attend lectures). For that reason, they register in fields that are easier to study and pass. These fields often qualify students only as teachers in subjects which are no longer in great demand.
b) In Yemen, studying computers and English language are secondary things. In fact, they are totally neglected in universities’ curricula. In other countries, studying is becoming more computer-based. You can imagine the big gap between the two modes. For this reason, our graduates are of little practical use in the work field..
2. Vacancies
As one graduates, s/he starts looking for a job and here comes the real difficulty. Rarely you find a job offer requiring no experience. In fact, most employers request, at least, 3 years of experience. Those who qualify themselves (by acquiring computer literacy and improving personal skills) are the lucky ones, although still below the required conditions to be employed.
Another problem is that in both governmental and private sectors, most of the job opportunities are linked to the candidate’s connections with directors or employers. Personal qualifications, capacities, and skills all become secondary conditions. Governmental positions are often given to certain people in a very irresponsible way. Bribery and relationship with key-persons play a big role in this process.
3. Ladies First
The English term “Ladies first” is misunderstood here. In Yemen, women are often much preferred in job interviews. Most employers ignore job-related qualifications and skills if the candidate is a beautiful lady, especially if she has a tactful way of talking. Qualified men are sometimes not required at all. We can notice that in vacancy announcements in newspapers. Even international institutions in Yemen always write, “Female candidates are preferred” when they announce vacancies.
I faced this problem with different employers when I tried to recommend some of my qualified male colleagues for them. All demanded ladies to fill positions of office managers, journalists, secretaries and translators.
4. Higher Studies:
At present, few graduates seriously think of continuing their higher studies. Some others, who are employed, also find that they need to continue studying by proxy. They realize that building their professional career requires higher education and getting qualifications in different fields related to development and gender.
Graduate aspirants for higher studies are divided into two groups. The first group looks for scholarships to study abroad. The second group prefers to continue their studies inside Yemen. These two groups face different kinds of problems.
For the first group, getting a scholarship becomes difficult, both from the government or other national or international institutions. Getting a scholarship from the government also seems to be dependent on having close relationships with key persons. Nearly one month ago, we were shocked by the decision of the Sana’a University Council to raise the fees of the Master’s studies to YR800,000. In my view, it is an indirect way to restrain the very few people who can continue their studies only in SU because they cannot afford it outside the country!
Getting scholarships through other institutions (international organizations, etc) is also hard since the opportunity is limited to a very few candidates. For example, although applications from Yemeni nationals for Fullbright scholarships every year number 150, the Fullbright usually offers, at most, 4-5 scholarships.
One year after graduation, the spirit of enthusiasm totally changes into frustration. In short, I believe that there is no way for the Yemeni youth to acquire higher academic qualifications in their country.
Recently I attended the graduation ceremony of the 25th batch of the English department. The speech of Prof. Thakur, head of the department, mainly focused upon real and practical life that the graduates will face after finishing their studies. One word he said struck me immensely. He said, addressing the graduates “Make me immortalized”. He meant that he would be immortal if they proved to be as good in practical life as they are as students. Yes, dear professors, we will try our best to make you immortalized, but, for that, we await a miracle to eradicate problems of corruption and irresponsibility corroding the edifice of our official hierarchies.