Key to Democracy and Development in Yemen: Education
National Yemen, June 22nd 2014
Yemen faces serious problems in many areas like politics, economy, health or security. Yet, one of those problems, in other words education, or the lack of it, prevents many of those other problems from getting a healthy solution. This challenge becomes even more obvious when the period and quality of education Yemeni citizens receive is compared to the rest of the world.
Literacy rate is around 60%, and goes down as low as to 30% in the case of women. This means, if you were to walk up to a Yemeni with a piece of paper with an address on it, the probability that he won't be able to help you with it is quite high because almost one in every two Yemenis do not read and write. The universities and other educational institutions in Yemen paint an even worse picture.
It is critical that the education problem in Yemen is solved immediately. Just like there is no highly educated but underdeveloped country in the world, you cannot find any country that is under-educated but developed and industrialized. The research shows that the increase in income per capita and other economic indicators are directly related to education levels. A country with a low literacy rate will have a low income per capita, as it is highly unlikely that an illiterate person will find a lucrative job. An illiterate person will either work in manual labor or in the best-case scenario, will be a craftsman.
The shift of Yemen from traditional agriculture society to an industrialized civilized society and even its endeavors to get a stronger democracy, have everything to do with improving education levels and quality. Indeed some economists managed to accurately guess the income per capita of a country when they were given the literacy rates of it.
With the increasing education quality in Yemen, a social awareness will be created, leading way to new areas of interest like art and science. As people become more educated, their prejudices will change, they will be more inquisitive and more respectful of differences.
The increasing education will also spearhead the very much needed openness policy in Yemen. People will more closely follow up everything that's going on around them and the developments in the politics. Naturally, an illiterate person will not be curious if the funds allocated by UNESCO for education quality in Yemen is duly used or not, because he has no means of finding out.
Improved education levels will also contribute to the political and administrative development in Yemen. People will be more engaged and involved in politics and administration, both in the form of doing politics themselves and deciding the progress of it.
Even the awareness of the importance of the country's integrity will rise with a better education. As children are taught about love for their countries, they will know that their countries count just as much as their tribes or sects.
Surely, the content of the education is just as important as the period and the accessibility of it. If a child is taught a perverse ideology such as that this life is a struggle and that the best way to fight injustice is through revolution, he will snatch a gun in the first opportunity he gets and try to create his own justice.
If children are taught not the true religion sent by God, but idolatry and invented rules passed on from their ancestors, he will end up interfering with the lifestyles of everyone else, and try to impose his choices and lifestyle on everyone else. They will even believe that those who do not believe in their radical system, which has no place in the Qur'an, should be 'fought against' and thus will adopt a perverse path.
However, the Qur'an is very clear about what is allowed and what is banned. The number of things God forbids for people is very few; all the world except for these few unlawful things are lawful. Consequently, living by the religious morality is very easy. Muslims are free to the utmost within these borders that God set. In the Qur'an, God explains: "He does not desire difficulty for you" (Surat al-Baqara, 185).
Just like in many Arabic countries in the Middle East, lack of education which plagues mostly women, form the basis of extremist movements. Half of the female population of Yemen is illiterate and while they are raised as Muslims, they cannot read the Qur'an. They can learn about their religion only from the people around them. Some of them know Islam only to the extent that they have been taught by their families and mistake extremism for 'real Islam'. And because they can't read, they cannot check to see if what they are told is really in the Qur'an or not. This is surely not their fault. All because of this, many women accept to be seen as 'second-class citizens' due to the superstitions shown as a part of religion. Surely this is not all. The children raised by such women also grow up under the influence of a similar ideology and when they hold a position in the society, they work to keep this flawed ideology alive.
It is crucial that the Fact of Creation, the basis of all Divine religions, is added to the curriculum as a rebuttal to the theory of evolution. Compassion, love, respect, understanding, reason, forgiveness and other virtues cannot be reasonably expected from people who are raised with the lie that he is an advanced form of apes. Therefore it is of paramount importance that people are taught that 'all humans are valuable beings with souls,' who are created for a certain purpose like the rest of the universe.