Students chew qat to improve exam performances
Yousif Ali, a high school student in Sana’a, said he chews daily from 1 to 4 a.m., when he starts his day job driving a taxi.
Ali said, “Qat gives me energy and helps me continue my work. Regardless, I cannot study without qat.”
Another high school student, Akram Mubark, said he does not always chew. He uses it only on the day of final exams. “It helps me stay up at night, so I can study,” Mubark said.
He also said that, while he is able to memorize very well during qat chewing sessions, the actual day of the exam he can’t recall any of the information.
When Akram tried to quit chewing, his friends persuaded him just to chew during homework.
Chewing qat is not limited to male students. Female students choose to chew as well to help them study hard for exams.
Nawal Al-Humaidi, a high school student said, “I chew because it helps me stay focused and gives me energy while I study.” Al-Humaidi has trouble sleeping at night, but she said qat helps her stay focused. She admitted, however, that she sometimes feels tired and lazy during class.
Amal Noaman is the opposite of Al-Humaidi. She has never put a leaf into her mouth and said she scored very well on high school exams.
“Qat is one of the biggest hassles students face because it only helps you remember information temporarily,” she said. “It has more disadvantages than advantages.”
Chewing is a phenomenon that concerns educators, as they are dealing with the students in school. They say students find it difficult to pay attention and understand in their classes because of sleepiness, a common side effect.
A sociologist at Hael School, Najeeba Al-Bana, said she has made an effort to lessen the spread of its use among students. One way was through weekly disseminations of pamphlets throughout the school alerting students to the leaves’ dangers.
Another avenue Al-Bana has tried was hanging posters highlighting the potential hazards of chewing qat. Her colleagues helped post them around the school.
Bana pointed out that symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, loss of memory and confusion are common side effects. Other issues such as migraines and gum and kidney diseases have also been linked to the drug.
Al-Bana said addicts sometimes resort to stealing if they have no money to fuel their addictions.
There have been many foundations in Yemen working to combat qat chewing. The Al-Naja Foundation has been working on disseminating information about the dangers to students.
Khatab Al-Himyari, the foundation’s spokesman, said the foundation hopes to educate students and encourage them not to chew through awareness of the risks.
“The best prevention is through education,” he said.
He said there are many programs to educate students. One is by training groups to tell their classmates about the dangers, particularly during exam periods. The foundation has targeted students at Al-Hassen, Hael Saeed, and Al-Wahda Al-Arabia schools in Sana’a.
Al-Himyari concluded, saying, “There are safe alternatives that students can use instead of qat. The students can go to human development centers or language institutes, Reading for All Programs, drama or sports teams, and many other activities and programs hosted by private organizations.”