By Maram Alabassi
Education Week, a week devoted to raising awareness about education, is a common event in many parts of the world, but to Yemen, it is a new concept. The Turkish Embassy, in cooperation with Turkish educators and administrators, organized an Education Week to help open new opportunities for Yemeni students and scholars. The event was held at the Sheba Hotel in Sana’a, lasting three days, and then in Aden, lasting two.
Education has faced many challenges over the past decades and Yemen’s population of over 25 million lacks sufficient educational institutions. Knowledge is one of the building blocks of development – the absence of educational opportunities has far-reaching consequences.
Yemen’s national budget confirms that education is not a priority to the country, critics say. Ministry of Education statistics reveal that education is allotted YR 64 billion per year, less than 12 percent of the total budget. That amounts to YR 63 thousand per pupil, less than US 300 dollars.
The idea that education is the foundation of development and advancement has helped raised educational standards in Yemen since the nineties. Three ministries are tasked with overseeing Yemen’s educational system; the Ministry of Education oversees all education in Yemen, both private and public; the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education oversees technical and vocational training in industry and agriculture; and the Ministry of Higher Education which oversees private and public universities.
In addition to common challenges educational institutions face in countries around the world, critics say Yemen suffers from two additional problems. First, there is an absence of independent educational institutions in the country, leading to corruption in the classroom. Another issue is the politicization of education in Yemen.
Educators say the education budget is insufficient. In particular, rural areas face a lack of schools and educators, with the entire amount of money allocated to a project rarely arriving in one piece because of corruption. As the country struggles to provide the necessary infrastructure, educational tools and teaching aids, money for these goals and aims often finds its way to the pockets of various administrators, tribal sheikhs, builders and others tasked with developing education.
Turkish ambassador Fazli Corman introduced Education Week to a Yemeni and Turkish audience at the Sheba Hotel.
“Turkish universities are interested in Yemeni students, and Yemeni students are interested in studying in Turkish universities,” Corman said. “Fourteen hundred Yemeni students applied to study in Turkey last year. Only 49 were selected, but we hope to increase that number.”
The Turkish embassy proposed to visit vocational institutes around Yemen to offer assistance and expertise. In his speech to the audience, Minister of Higher Education Hesham Sharaf warmly received the offer.
“We appreciate this Turkish initiative for Yemen and we appreciate the Turkish sponsorship of an Education Week in Yemen,” Sharaf said.
Thirty-five Turkish universities participated in the event, providing students and scholars with informational brochures. During the visit, representatives from the universities introduced their respective institutions and provided prospective students with university memorabilia.
Sharaf believes initiatives like Education Week only strengthen relations between the two countries. This was a valuable opportunity for Yemenis, Sharaf said, to learn more about Turkish institutions and to think seriously about attending.
Yemen’s Minister of Education Abdualrazaq Alashwal gave glowing reviews of the Turkish educational system.
“The Turkish educational experience is rich and we need it to recreate it in Yemen,” he said.