The Basic Education as a Model of Conflict and Loss of Identity

Painting and Music subjects vanished in our schools
Dr. Noha Al-Kazemi
May 26, 2023

The Basic Education as a Model of Conflict and Loss of Identity

Painting and Music subjects vanished in our schools
Dr. Noha Al-Kazemi
May 26, 2023
Photo credit: Reuters

The Yemeni people celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the achievement of Yemeni unity, and this occasion has become a memory in which there is re-talk about politics and systematic and repetitive agendas, some of which call for secession, or defend unity, and some of which stress the need for a package of solutions to build a state of law and order.

When discussing the set of solutions and the desired treatments, it is not about immediate or temporary remedies, but it requires a review of the key events that accompanied the integration process, and its impact on the productive and cognitive sectors alike.

One of the important files which should have taken its due from in-depth research is; the education file in southern and northern Yemen given that education in Yemen has gone through an ill-conceived phase of adjustment.

The most prominent negative effects resulting from the exclusionary treatment of the education file were: turning it into a file condemning the mismanagement of the educational process in southern Yemen; and consequently unification was blamed through it.

In fact, there is an educational gap that marred the educational process before and after the unity, due to the failure to implement a comprehensive study of an ambitious plan to develop curricula that accommodates the shape of the new state and the inputs required by the stage. As a result, teaching courses were neglected, and a number of them were even cancelled. The basic education stage can be identified as a model for providing intense investigation on the education system in the former southern Yemen.

The education system in the basic education stage in southern Yemen was concerned with teaching the student how to learn, and how to possess the skills that enhance his talent. Therefore, the focus on extracurricular activities was important and essential part of education.

Thus, students in the basic education stage were studying music, learning the melodic scale, I still remember how we used to repeat after the teacher, repeat the rhythm and draw it. However, this subject was completely canceled, and suddenly the sound of music was absent from our school.

In addition to the subject of music, the subjects of drawing and handicrafts were also neglected, although drawing timidly appears within the courses taught to the student today.

In their spare time, students are asked to draw a palm tree, a boat, anything, except for the typical schools that try to balance the curriculum with minimal creative activity.

Moreover, in the gardening class, the student was learning how to grow various types of flowers and plants, how to take care of them... etc while there was allotted time for practical application of planting in the school yard, and the gardening course was considered one of the important courses that Western countries gave exceptional attention to; Because it is linked to the process of sustainable development, and southern Yemen was a pioneer in anticipating the importance of teaching children gardening at an early age.

If this subject had continued within the school curriculum that students learn to this day and its curriculum had been developed to keep pace with the emerging changes in the field of sustainable development, the Yemeni student would have learnt precise concepts about this vital sector, which unfortunately tody's students do not know anything about.

Among the subjects that were marginalized in an absurd manner were the subjects of writing and reading, so attention became concerned with quantity, not quality as the purpose of the text, and not the aesthetics of the text, which was neglected while modifying the Arabic language curriculum.

When comparing today's students with students who studied the old curriculum, we find that they had creative talents in writing because the writing class (expression) was an essential subject, and the Arabic language teacher was focusing on the writing subject whose title was presented to the students to build the student's ability in drafting and choosing words, and avoiding spelling and linguistic mistakes. They also learned how to employ their imagination in choosing similes, condensing, and focusing on the central idea, and this is not dependent on the student's talent and creative faculties only, but through training and practice the student - at least – learnt to organize similar ideas, to provide observation, and to relate events to their realities. The student's relationship with writing was fundamental and not marginal. If he did not write well, he would not succeed, and this is one of the basics that the old student came up with before amending the curricula at that stage.

On the contrary, we find that today's student deals with the textbook as if it were his personal property, and therefore he has the right to throw it away, tear it up, and not caring about losing it because he can buy a new text book from the nearest "basta" book seller on the street.

There is another value that today’s students lost in their relationship with the textbook, which is how to deal with the moral value of the book, not the material one. As students, we were not allowed to write on it or inside it. We had to wrap and preserve it. If it is torn or lost, the student has to pay a fine. 

This feature, although it seemed stressful to the students, taught them the moral value of books, in addition to the fact that the student at that stage had to use his pen and notebook to write notes and answer questions in the book, which enabled him to write well and improve handwriting.

As for the students today, we find that today's students deal with the textbook as if it was their personal property, and therefore student has the right to throw it away, tear it up, and not caring about losing it because he can buy a new text book from the nearest "basta" book seller on the street.

Re-printing copies of textbooks for all educational levels leads to a waste of huge funds, which if rationed, would have enabled the state to use these funds to develop the educational process, in line with the developed plans, which cannot be achieved. Because today the student is required to write in the same book, and after the end of the year he gets rid of it.

The university student today - who is a graduate of the writing stage in the book - cannot write what is mentioned in the lecture, and does not have the summarizing tools that help him write the main ideas; Because he did not learn how to focus on the central idea in the basic and secondary education stages; The reason for this is that he used to write specific lines, and sometimes he would fill in some blanks in the school book and his booklet.

There is a lot that can be said about the changes that accompanied the modification of the Yemeni curricula after the unification, but they were not considered in their entirety, and the student today is still suffering from its consequences, which did not affect the south of Yemen only, but also the north.

With a quick look at the educational process that we went through, parents were charged with the responsibility of teaching their children what they learned in school (calligraphy, writing, indoctrination, ...) in isolation from the current school curriculum. Because the latter does not present the creative idea, insofar as it teaches the student to memorize partial information, to say the least, that it is useless and will not add anything to him so that he will not be able to possess the skills of self-learning.

This can be verified by reviewing the books of the first grade of primary school. If we looked at the book of the Holy Qur’an that our children are studying today, we would have stopped at the drawing accompanying Surat Al-Kawthar. What is the purpose of presenting this illustration to a child in the first grade of primary school?

It is known that the child has a visual memory, so how will this image be reflected in the child's concept of religion?! Then, is the child required to learn how to slaughter?! It is strange that drops of blood splatter on a white sheet of paper, in a book intended for first-grade students.

And if we read the religious information that was given to students in the primary stage, we would find that the student receives a dose of rejecting the other and dealing with him according to relationships that the child at this stage cannot admit except from the standpoint of narcissistic monogamy. We teach him that the other is an infidel and this word is repeated frequently in Quran book for the first grade of primary school.

Today, the country is going through an even greater challenge with regard to the educational aspect, as the school management pattern has changed, and it has become subject to groups that tighten their grip on these areas under their control. Children in the first grades suffer more from the problem of sterile curricula in view of the loss of the identity that the parties to the conflict are fighting over, and which employ all capabilities to create an “ideological” generation that surrender to to it and is in line with its visions, ideologies, and sectarian political projects.

Nothing remains of the great dream but frills; an identity that does not know what it is, and details that are steeped in the past, and we do not have a clear vision of the future of the next generation, and what its identity is.

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