Illiteracy elimination movement faces hurdles
Mohammed bin Sallam (author), Mohammed bin Sallam (photographer)
The Yemen Times met with Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed, the head of the Adult Education and Illiteracy Elimination (AEIEA) organization, as well as other societal issues relating to illiteracy. Ahmed calls for the country to prioritize this education-related crisis.
“We exert great efforts so that people take notice of this issue that has low awareness. We look at this issue as a national one. Illiteracy is one of the biggest challenges in the country. Consequently, people should agree on the importance of this issue. Their support will help us succeed and overcome the challenges and difficulties facing us,” he said.
Ahmed asserted the importance of a partnership of all facets of society to contribute to the programs of illiteracy elimination.
“The the role of the local councils and the media outlets is weak. It is my duty to remind these people that they are responsible for the important role of making the process of illiteracy elimination go effectively and smoothly. The illiteracy elimination issue is a connected one and is not limited to a particular side.”
He went on to say, “We are not the only ones responsible for this process. The AEIEA is a technical, educational authority. Our mission is to facilitate the process and to make policies and programs. Thus, the process cannot continue without the participation of everyone. Though the obstacles are many, we go on steadfastly. We have convictions that it is our duty to carry on, no matter the difficulties or hurdles or the limited potential.”
In reference to the AEIEA’s new techniques and programs, he said, “We work to advance our programs. We issue many cultural, educational and teaching booklets to help those who cannot read. We created another program geared at tourism. We issued two books about this, specifically for Shabwa, Al-Jawf and Mareb, two governorates that are tourist attractions. This was in coordination with the Tourism Ministry.”
Ahmed also said that illiteracy elimination programs concentrate on fostering basic skills like teaching the alphabet. The organization additionally supports many centers, providing them with equipment, machines, garments, and other materials needed to help illiterate people acquire reading skills.
He added, “We aim to develop the abilities and skills of teachers because we consider the teacher to be the cornerstone of our daily framework. The illiteracy elimination teachers are different from the school teachers. We teach the illiteracy elimination teachers how to deal with adults, and how to convey the information patiently. We have intensified these training courses and established a special team for this training.”
It is not an overnight process teaching someone to read, according to Ahmed.
“The time needed is about two years. Then the learners are given certificates, equivalent to the certificates of the fourth grade students. There is then no objection if they want to enroll at a government school.”
For the most part, the centers continue to attract news students.
“As many as 186,000 male and female students are enrolled at the centers this year,” Ahmed boasted, but pointed out that numbers dropped in areas like Al-Jawf and Shabwa, due to a deteriorating security situation.
The literacy crusader expects the number of teachers to increase during the 2012-13 school year.
“This year we are using new techniques. A teacher will teach 40 students in each class to get financial incentives. No teacher will be approved if he isn’t committed to this rule, Ahmed said. “This initiative aims to increase the number of students nationwide.”
Another focus of the AEIEA is to increase literacy in rural areas.
“The problem is that the number of students in rural areas is between five and 20, and it is hard to find teachers who accept working in rural areas. However, we still continue to teach,” the organization’s leader said.
Regarding the support offered by governmental and non-government organizations for his program, Ahmed asserted the importance of working together to gain their cooperation.
He went on to say, “Political parties should have a positive role in eliminating illiteracy, opening classes and encouraging its members to participate in the teaching process. Moreover, the Ministry of Endowment should require imams to teach students, and in return, we’ll provide blackboards, chalks and certificates.”
“We don’t want financial support at all [from non-governmental groups]. What we need is participation to eliminate illiteracy in our country using available resources. I don’t know what prevents associations and unions from holding classes in their factories and offices for employees after work,” he added.
“Media has an essential role too. Media, whether television, radio or newspapers, should have an active role, but unfortunately when we request that they add headlines encouraging people to study, they ask for money,” Ahmed criticized.
Although Ahmed isn’t demanding anything but small efforts from institutions outside of government, he wants the state to take financial responsibility to teach its constituents to read and calls for a redistribution of resources for education.
“There is a shortage of funds. The budget the state gives to our authority doesn’t equal what is given to other authorities.”