By Asma Al-mohattwari
The revolution in Yemen has had a detrimental impact on many things in Yemen – education included. The symbol of Yemen’s education system, Sana’a University, has carried much of the burden. Dr. Murad Al-Azzany, a professor of linguistics at Sana’a University, says that education in the university is rapidly deteriorating from bad to worse. “It is estimated that Sana’a University enrolls half of Yemen’s graduate students and yet the situation of education in is miserable,” Dr. Al-Azzany continued, “it does not even meet the basic academic standards that most of the universities in the world enjoy.” According to him, Sana’a University lacks libraries, laboratories and staff who could contribute to producing students that can push the development of Yemen forward. “I still believe that the most important components of education are highly motivated students and great lecturers — we have these at Sana’a University,” says Al-Azzany. Once students are put in the right academic environment, “they will flourish and excel.” However, Sana’a University faces an uphill battle to build the academic environment that Al-Azzany envisions. One year ago, Sana’a became the battleground of the revolution that pushed Yemen into a void of uncertainty. This brought multiple challenges, accordingly to Al-Azzany, “the primary challenge was that the gates of the university were literally and figuratively closed – halting the university’s operations. A second challenge was that the university administration attempted to move classes to alternative places off-campus. The challenge has now become how do we bring back the classes to the university?” Why the university closed to begin with is subject to much debate. The university administration said that the student’s closed the gates and prevented classes from meeting. However, Chairman of the General Union of Yemeni Students Yahya Al-Mattry contends that it wasn’t the students who close the university, but members of the former regime. Regardless of who did what, Sana’a University is still in disarray. Protests have become common at the university as students demand the resignation of Sana’a Universtiy President Dr. Khaled Tamim as well as other high-ranking officials because of their corrupt practices. Al-Mattry believes that the university’s administration is still practicing corruption openly and widely. According to students, many lecturers employed in the university are hired or promoted based on their political affiliation – not their performance. Many students believe that political parties play a major role in damaging the quality of the education at Sana’a University as doctors and students in the university are partisan and care about politics more than education. Every party tries to convey its believes and desires through education, making Sana’a University a prime target to build support. Politics run deep in Sana’a University and have long controlled two power groups on campus: The Teachers Union and the General Union of Yemeni Students. Both unions work towards the interests and goals of political parties, not the people designated in their names. “Most of the people who belong to syndicates are politicians that follow their political affiliation,” said Al-Mattry. Arwa Al-Siaghi, a student at Sana’a University, said there should be only one syndicate and the university has to control it. “This syndicate should serve the students needs, not political interests. Education should be neutral,” Al-Siaghi noted. The current challenge, Al-Azzany says, is how to improve the educational process in the country and reactivate the academic rules of running the academic process. “For example, how can begin appointed deans according to their qualifications and years of service? How do we being to support academic research? Unfortunatley, we cannot solve such issues unless the main political issues in the country are solved,” Al-Azzany concluded. Until these issues are solved, Sana’a University and Yemen’s education system will not develop to its full potential until all stakeholders put the university before themselves.