The Menacing Threat Facing Education in Yemen

National Yemen

Dr.Murad alazzany

For National Yemen

Pro. Dr.Murad alazzany. Sana’a University

It has been four years since I finished my doctorate degree and two since I started my career as a professor assistant in Sana’a University. The position I am in now is a climax to twenty two years of service — a lifetime spent in classes, libraries, laboratories and corridors of academic institution and scholarly surroundings. Half of that time was spent schooling in Yemen while the other half spent in pursuing under and post graduate studies abroad.

That long academic journey was not that easy for me or any of my colleagues. It was a sedulous life in which we faced a number of difficulties and challenges. Despite these challenges, it allowed us to pursue many academic interests and also offered us a great chance to met intellectuals who represented different walks of life who displayed different levels of critical thinking. This gave us a chance to enrich our knowledge, polish our personalities and develop the analytical skills of adept researchers.

Having finished our post graduate studies, my colleagues and I turned down many offers and opportunities to work in prestigious universities abroad. Money was not our priority by that time, which is clearly realized when one compares the salaries we could have received abroad and the ones we are getting now in Yemen. We were actually determined to come back home and invest in the knowledge and experience we had gained in years abroad. That determination was rooted in our deep awareness of our responsibility towards society.

At that time we were fully aware of the extent to which corruption had permeated all society structures and institutions — including those of education. It was also clear to us that Saleh’s regime had adopted a policy entrenched on a systematic marginalization of academicians and their institutions. We are not here to talk about that policy in details but it suffices to say that Saleh kept on excluding academicians from high positions which could have played a crucial role in developing awareness and advancement in Yemen’s society. The premise of that policy was to perpetuate an educational system that could not produce independent students that were likely to challenge his rule.

When the fervor of the Arab revolution reached Yemen, we put a lot of hope on it to lead a fundamental change in the country. The revolution appeared to herald a new era in which corruption and its patrons would finally be eliminated. But the current situation to which the situation of the country has evolved left many academicians with despair and pessimism. They view the future of Yemen to be gloomy and their career on a risk. This pessimism is heightened by foreign lecturers who have left the country in large numbers- as if they had sent ultimatum to local ones. Yemeni academicians feel that a prolonged chaotic situation will damage their career and further will ruin the knowledge and experience they have assiduously gained over the past years. Thus, many of them are considering to leave the country for opportunities abroad.

I myself have applied for a lecturing post in some Gulf universities. But when I went to one of the hotels in Sana’a to be interviewed, I shockingly found that I was not the only one who considered that move. Fifty academicians were there waiting their turns to be interviewed. That left a bitter sense inside me to which I felt obliged to reconsider my decision. I reached the highest of that shock when I was told by my well-mannered gulf interviewers that the decision to hire Yemeni candidates was usually taken even before they interview them. They commented that interviews were only routine procedures postulated by the system of institutions. When I questioned the secret behind that confidence in Yemenis, they replied that they usually found them knowledgeable and with moving personalities. Intuitively and teasingly, I demanded a high payment to match that high appreciation of those immigrating birds.

This unfolding story should not be mistaken as culpability for the revolutionary protest. The revolution was and still the only viable choice for the young to push for a political and social change that could save the country from falling parts. If it happens to succeed, it will definitely bring about dramatic reforms in the field of education. Such reforms would only further enhance the ability of Yemen’s education system to prepare millions of young people to become well-informed participants in their society.

However, it is the president and his regime who are to blame for the despairing situation academicians have reached. Whenever a hope in a political settlement to resolve the crisis in the country looms on the horizon, it gets scuttled by the president and his associates. Our last hope was put in the deal brokered by gulf countries to transfer power peacefully to Saleh’s deputy president. Though the deal was signed by Saleh last month in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, nothing has changed on the ground. A fierce fighting is still ongoing in the city of Taiz in which dozens of civilians and protesters have been killed by forces loyal to Saleh. Saleh is still also resuming his presidency as he is still issuing decisions from the republican palace. It was he who nominated both the names representing his party in the Security Council and half the cabinet – he even rejected some of the names nominated by the opposition coalition parties. Such facts on the ground have proved our hopes were only wishful. Signing that deal was only one of his ‘snake dance’ performances by which he intended to circumvent the pressure increased on him by the Gulf countries and the international community.

Within this political wrangling, Yemeni academicians become convinced that their country will not see any political settlement in the near time and violence will continue. They knew that Saleh will not go anywhere, and will continue maneuvering with the hope of overcoming the revolutionary protest and his political rivals. He will pursue that goal even at the cost of transforming universities and schools into military and refugees camps. His intention is possibly to make people remember his time as the golden era.

Thus, professors have decided to leave the country and pursue their academic ambitions abroad. But it would be a disaster for the whole country if such academicians happen to leave. Simply because the greatest asset of any country is its human resources and the main portion of this asset are the academicians whose knowledge and expertise will perpetuate the excellence of the country and its youth. However, the only hope for those academicians is another unexpected political surprise that will lead to a transitional government and legitimate elections.  This political surprise will not happen without a strong engagement by the Gulf counties, United Nation and the rest of the international community.

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