06 July, 2013

Hadhramout's Dire and Crumbling Education System and Institutions

For the last few days, primary and secondary school students from Hadhramout - like tens of thousands of their counterparts across Yemen and in many other parts of the Arab world - have been doing their final year exams. What is very troubling and even very shocking, from what I am hearing, is that there have been unchecked, rampant, flagrant and extensive cheating. Years back, government run public schools in Hadhramout - as very poorly funded and provided as they are - enforced discipline and were very strict when it came to exams. No cheating whatsoever was allowed. All these changed about two years ago with Yemen's political crisis. Cheating during exams started. Last year, it became even more normal to cheat. This year, from reports I am getting now - the cheating has been very extensive and even supported and encouraged by some teachers, by some headmasters and even more shockingly - by some invigilators.

Reason given for this sudden change in promoting and encouraging cheating - is that: students in all other provinces in Yemen are cheating, so why not Hadhramis? They believe, and rightly so - if students in other parts of the country are cheating and will have a much better chance of being enrolled in colleges and universities within the country or outside, then, why not cheat like everyone else? That's the problem: in any family or society or nation - any form of cheating, dishonesty or other forms of corruption, is communicable. All over the world - students try to cheat in exams. But, for that cheating to be condoned and encouraged by educators and even invigilators - is most shocking. During my years in school in East Africa, during any school exam or test, any one caught and proven cheating will have that particular paper he/she is sitting for - instantly cancelled; in most cases - the whole exam results of that pupil would be disqualified.

People, especially students - should earn and be rewarded through their hard work and diligence. Through merit. Not through cheating, dishonesty and being corrupt. A family or a society or a nation, is always judged by how honorable and disciplined they are. The more they have of these, the more highly regarded and much stronger and advanced they would be. Personally, I have always judged and graded any place I am in or am visiting, by three things: its infrastructure, its medical facilities and its educational resources and institutions. It is the last - education - that effects all else in a country. If the education system fails, all else fails. Students are not wholly to blame for this very dire situation. Nor are parents. It is the Ministry of Education, starting right from the top - that is most to blame. They should take immediate action and do everything possible to ensure that cheating and irregularities are stamped out of the examination system. That - discipline and integrity are enforced in all educational institutions. Above all: for institutions to work - Yemen should politically sort itself out.