By Tamjid Alkohali
With the beginning of the new school year, millions of students are returning to schools around Yemen. Unfortunately, education in Yemen has many shortcomings such as school buildings, educational aids, the number of teachers, and schoolbooks. These shortcomings are worse in villages and rural areas.
At a time when schools are suffering from the lack of books, they can still be found on the sidewalks, where large numbers of schoolbooks are sold beside other goods like vegetables and clothes.
Instead of distributing the books free for all students, parents buy them from kiosks for high prices.
One schoolbook vendor on Altahrir Street confirmed that the beginning of the school year is considered a profitable season for them.
Who stands behind schoolbooks being sold on the sidewalks like the other food commodities while many parents are complaining of the lack of schoolbooks in schools?
The principal of Amna Bent Wahab School, Hanan Mutahar Haidara, explained the lack of schoolbooks in a recent interview.
She said that she suffers a lot in the beginning of every year from the lack of schoolbooks. She has a permit to take just 75% of books from the stores that are in Bab al-Yemen. “Every time I go to the stores, I find the books aren’t enough. I take books for not more than 50% of the students from all levels”
Haidara also complained that the government doesn’t deliver the books to the school because of the far distance between the school and stores.
“Besides my school, there are about 75 schools in the Bani Hareth Directorate. We all suggested to the Ministry to put the books somewhere close and we would get them, but our request was ignored and we still go to Bab al-Yemen to buy books,” she said.
Haidara explained that the lack of books is worse in the first levels and for English books.
As a result of lack of books Haidara and other principals are forced to make the students give back their books at the end of the school year in order to be distributed to students again the next year.
“This has helped us a lot to provide the books for students, especially in the high levels. However, it is unfit for the primary levels where students use their books in answering the exercises, so they need to get new books,” she added.
The strange thing is that the non-existent books in schools can be found in large number on the streets and in kiosks.
The problem has caused frustration for students and has led to an increase in the rate of school dropouts. Parents have found themselves looking for other sources to provide books, including the black market.
Mohammed Saran, a father of three students, said he usually waits until the end of the first month of the school year in order to by books from the black market, noting that prices are often high.
Moreover, the teacher Leila explained the results caused by the absence of school books. She said the lack of books negatively impacts the educational process; teachers can’t prepare lessons while students can’t do their duties.
“The problems differentiate from one subject to another. For example, the lack of English books is more difficult than the lack holy Quran and reading books,” she added.
However, Mohammed, a vender of school books on Altahrir Street, refused to reveal the source of the books he sells.
“The brokers who gives us books asks for a percentage of sales. There aren’t specific prices for books; it depends on the kind of book. English and math are more expensive,” he explained.
In the same context, the Deputy Executive Director of the General Establishment of Book Printing, Mohammed Zubarah, attributed the lack of books in many schools to several reasons, including the lack of providing allocations for the institution from the central bank. However, he confirmed that more than 80 per cent of textbooks were distributed to offices in the provinces this year.
He added that The Ministry of Education does not have a clear plan for the distribution of books to schools, because they do not have accurate statistics on the number of pupils. “We print more than sixty million books every year, but this number doesn’t cover the number of pupils.”
Zubarah said that they distribute books in three capacities, which are education offices in the provinces, moral guidance in Sana’a (for military schools of the Republic), and the Ministry of Emigrants (for community schools).