Scholarships meant for the poor take officials’ children to resorts in the USA and Europe

By Anis Al-Jahlani
Al-Wasat
Yemen
Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005

Childhood innocence, here, is consumed in blacksmith shops, cafes, and in places of torment. Even you, poor youth, never tried to ask yourselves even once about the seriousness of being amongst predatory human creatures! Then, did you know that 10% of this pack will rob you of your livelihoods and wealth, and their children will become your leaders and ministers of your governments after them?

Taking the national oath, for the youngest of them to the oldest, is only intended to serve their interests and secure the future of their children for hundreds of years to come. As for you, you have to face all kinds of hurdles in your way. Even the president himself did not hesitate to issue a decision abolishing whatever hope was left for a generation of young people, for no reason but to please one of the senior officials of his presidential palace after the official’s son failed the scholarship examination set by the Canadian Nexen Petroleum Company, on the basis of which successful candidates are sent to study abroad.

This official failed to force the company to choose one of his sons and to list his name among successful candidates (as many officials before him have tried but failed). But since the president encourages the children of officials to pursue their education and prepare themselves to assume posts like those of their fathers, it upset the president that the Nexen’s procedures adopt scientific and accurate criteria that create competition among candidates, of which officials’ children always fall short. Meanwhile the general public, particularly the poor in Taizz, succeed in this exam. This is what the president did not approve of, as if those others were not his people.

In the past, education was restricted to the children of Imams and their associates and was not available to other people, who had to live under a monarchy surrounded by a sacred wall, with none daring to go against the “royal guards.” However, their contemporary successors do not appear to be any better than them, even though the slogan of “education for all” has been spread among the public. The discrimination is an obvious fact, as many villages remain without schools until now and the children there sit on the ground in the shade of trees, while the officials’ children receive education tailored for them in the best private schools in the country and abroad. In light of this situation, hard work, diligence, and the standard of high averages in education have lost their value as the Republic’s top students sleep on asphalt while the politicians and the elite tread on them.

To raise the level of development, the State dispatches top graduates from high school and university departments to foreign countries to prepare them so that the country can advance rapidly in all aspects of life. However, a close examination of the names of those sent to countries such as the USA, Britain and Canada reveals that none of the scholarship recipients meet its criteria and standards, as their averages are rated below “good.” We can see that nothing helps them except being sons of senior state officials (misters, ambassadors, members of the Shura Council and the Parliament, as well as army and security leaders). All of these officials assert their power to provide their families with luxury standards and provide them with better education and jobs in sensitive positions that bring them large amounts of money, money which should be allocated to improve the medical care which does not exist in our country. Moreover, they were not satisfied with realizing that goal for their children by robbing the treasury. They committed themselves to shattering the dreams of the general public and taking over scholarship allocations, which were preserved for distinguished students who are truly capable of creativity, as evidenced by their educational attainment. That attainment is also part of the specified standards that subject the rich and the poor alike to competition. This did not satisfy the gang in control of authority and the government because their children do not meet these criteria, and so, they worked to change the situation through their power and by manipulating concerned authorities, while not paying the least attention to the regulations and the standards governing the granting of scholarships, and canceling the basic right of thousands of this country’s youth.

An example of such a tragedy is Mohammad, who was born in the village of Ansi in the Dhamar Governorate prior to a devastating earthquake. He spent his preschool years playing with the stones of his house, which the earthquake destroyed along with the neighboring houses. After such an incident, the children of Dhamar became engaged in an unequal fight against the fierceness of nature and the human enemies who assumed the task of accepting contributions from neighboring countries to reconstruct what the earthquake had destroyed. While the children of Ansi remained homeless, those officials were building palaces for themselves in select cities, and in order to cover up for the assistance and the donations received they built small houses with rooms like guard “booths”. Indeed, this does not concern us now. What concerns us is the story of Mohammad from Ansi and thousands of young people of today’s generation who are in his situation; Mohammad spent the years of his primary education walking long distances to reach his school, and dreaming of a better future. “I remembered my childhood ambition to get excellent results in my exams in order to become a physician or a pilot, but what I encountered was quite different,” Mohammad said, laughing with a sigh. His features show despair and distaste for everything. In spite of the pain and suffering he went through, Mohammad graduated from high school with an excellent average of 93%. He did not lose hope that the Ministry of Higher Education would send him to study abroad, as his average entitled him to such a scholarship. However, he did not know that the fact his father is a peasant and has a job as a driver would deny him his full rights. By the time Mohammad became more engaged with life, he realized many things. He believed that if he wanted to pursue his education according to the conditions established for the granting of scholarships, meeting these conditions would no longer do any good, since it is necessary that he be born to a rich and powerful family, or that his father be a minister, an ambassador or a military commander. Otherwise, he would not get anything, even if his skills and abilities proved to be beyond imagination.

Many names replaced those of the poor and the general public, with nothing qualifying them except for their relationship with persons who run ministries and government institutions and control the livelihood of a large segment of simple people – persons who abused their responsibilities and violated the laws governing the country, and who use corruption on a daily basis and do not have anyone to hold them accountable.

It took Waddah two years to realize that his attempts to obtain a scholarship were futile even though he met all the requirements. His brother was only a low-ranking employee in the scholarships department. However, a colleague of Waddah’s who began school the same year as Waddah but graduated after him with a “fair” rating after his father intervened, found help in the diplomacy of his father who works for the Yemeni Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as he obtained an exceptional approval to go on a scholarship to any country of his choice. The approval was not granted by a driver or a street vendor, but by Yemeni Prime Minister Bajamal himself.

Mohammad Al-Ansi, whose name has no relation to Ali Al-Ansi, the Yemeni Presidential Office director, sent his sons to study in the US at the expense of the poor. He told me that he does not have time to listen to the president’s speeches or Bajamal’s statements regarding scholarships and employment because what they say is baseless. He said their actions do not match their words, which he considered as nonsense and an attempt designed only to manipulate the citizen’s feelings. “Those are our true enemies; they take our rights and give them to their children, who later will become directors and ministers effortlessly. Then the nation’s interest will not be served and the rule of idiots will prevail."

Violations of scholarship and employment regulations by the children of officials are clear to the poor. They can all comprehend the composition of the leadership of the Special Forces and the National Guard, as well as the leadership of the central security, the political security, and the national security services. They know who controls these services from the entourage and close associates of the president who always insist on reminding us in his speeches that fighting corruption consists of only words rather than actions, and reiterating the need to introduce relatives and family members to the governing authority despite their lack of experience in leadership and administration, not to mention what the officials do and how they take advantage of their positions for the same goals the president has entrenched.

All of those past practices were -reluctantly- accepted by citizens. But for those officials to come and rob the poor citizens of their allotment in education and scholarships is absolutely unacceptable. Does it follow logic that the president issued directives discontinuing the granting of scholarships to study abroad except for competent students majoring in rare specialties, and emphasizing the need to apply the standards of excellence, while simultaneously issuing presidential orders to grant scholarships to the officials’ children, whose averages do not even go over “fair”, in order to pursue their education in specialties that the country is no longer in need of? Yet the president issued another decision discontinuing scholarships accredited by the Canadian Nexen, which covers the expenditure of study abroad scholarships. The reason for this order was solely that the officials’ children do not benefit from such scholarships, since the company does not consider the power of the fathers of the students who are sent abroad on scholarships, but relies on testing the students’ abilities without discrimination. This is what the president was dissatisfied with. He did not pay attention to those studying on the country’s expense in the US, Canada, and Britain, whose residencies there have been double the period specified by the scholarship. Despite that, the Ministry of Higher Education continues to pay the price of their failure, although these scholarships were originally for outstanding students. Data shows that 98% of the students on scholarships in the US, Canada, and Britain are in violation of the terms of their scholarships, and that all of them obtained scholarships through orders from senior officials who have authority and positions of power enabling them to carry out such orders. In addition, there is data that confirms that most of the students on scholarships in these countries receive scholarship funds and tuition fees from more than one body, such as the Ministry of Higher Education, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, the Prime Ministry, and the Yemeni Petroleum Company. The latter sends students on scholarships to foreign countries without publicizing these scholarships, which are distributed among the children of powerful officials, thereby denying the opportunity to the highest scoring high school students. This practice proves that economic reforms and antic-corruption efforts that the government claims to undertake are a myth, because the same people who claim to push for reform are the ones corrupting its foundation and crippling its mechanisms.

Below, Al Wasat publishes the names of scholarship recipients to study in the United States, Canada and the UK as clear evidence of official abuse of power.

[Listed are 56 names of officials relatives who are scholarship recipients]