Political Analysis

Disappointedly: Hassan Saleh joins al-Houthi fighters

National Yemen

Sana’a University

Entrance Examinations: Students’ Money Goes to University Treasury

Asma al-Mohattwari

The high scores of high school students are no longer meaningful because students have to re-take examinations at Sana’a University with a standardized exam model developed by the Ministry of Higher Education Commission. Each student who gets a certain score gets a scholarship abroad or is accepted in Yemeni universities. In 2014, students took the entrance examination with predetermined seats according to scores and the scholarships available, as well as the number of seats at the university.

Unfortunately, success on entrance examinations depends both on cheating and students’ influential families. Jawaher is a student who graduated from high school in 2011 with a score of 90%. She had her entrance examination at the Medical College in 2013, but she was one of the unexpected students. Jawaher is smart and ambitious and hopes to be a doctor. She decided to take the exam again in the coming year. In 2014, she happily went to the college with hope that this time she would be accepted.

She took the exam with 15,000 other students and only 150 were accepted. Despite the huge number of students taking the exam, Jawaher still believed that she would pass. Cruelly, one sentence from an exam observer was enough to destroy her dreams and hopes. “Do not bother yourselves because the seats are reserved for specific students.”

The next day she went to see the results. She looked for her name on the list many times but she wasn’t accepted. Then she remembered the observer’s words and gave up. She took the exam in Faculty of Computers, the Faculty of Engineering and finally, the Faculty of Commerce but with no luck. Her only choice was private universities. A student with a rate of 90% can’t enter a public university, yet students with 60% and 70% were accepted based on their fathers’ high positions.

In addition to the corruption in the acceptance rates, there is also corruption in the administration of universities. The period of the entrance examination in universities is considered a fertile season for the leadership of the university. They take money from all the students in order to enter the exam hall. In the three faculties medicine, engineering, and computers, the administration takes 2000 riyals from each student while in other faculties it ranges between 1000 and 1500 riyals. Thousands of students pay money and only a fraction of them are accepted. Millions of riyals go to the university treasury and no one knows what it is used for.

Mohammed Zaid, a student, said that it is unfair when rich students, who do whatever they want during the school year and complete their classes with poor grades, are still able to easily secure scholarships and seats at Sana’a University. Many poor students without powerful connections work hard all year, receive high marks, and still have no chance for scholarships or a seat.

The registration fees for the entrance exam in Sana’a University are enough to develop the university and add more classes and raise the number of the accepted students. But where there is corruption there is no rational management.

Many students graduated from school with the dream of entering the university, but the corrupt reality shocked them. Some of them tried to get a job to pay the fees of studying in a private college while others with low incomes joined armed groups, destroying their futures. Saleh Sa’ad said that he couldn’t pay his son’s fees for studying and he couldn’t find a job. Now his son, Hassan, has joined al-Houthi and is fighting with them. “They provide him a shelter, food and drink. They provide him what the government stole from him.”

An official source in the Ministry of Higher Education said that Yemen lacks transparency in the distribution of its scholarships and university seats, opening the door to all kinds of corruption and unfair influence by powerful figures. Many improper government grants are secured through a process known as “mediation,” where wealthy or well-connected figures are able to use their position to secure government aid for their family members.

The only thing Yemenis want, aside from a future of their sons and daughters, is to feel that there is real change in Yemen by getting rid of things such as the mediation process.