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Lack of awareness undermines free delivery law

18 Feb
According to a study by Oxfam, only 14 percent of people know about the free delivery law issued in 1998 which has only been implemented in Yemen’s main public hospitals.

According to a study by Oxfam, only 14 percent of people know about the free delivery law issued in 1998 which has only been implemented in Yemen’s main public hospitals.


by: Malak Shaher

The Yemeni government issued the Law of Free Delivery in 1998 to help reduce the high mortality rate in Yemen, but the benefits are not extended to Yemenis in rural areas and public clinics.

“I do not understand how such a decree can be carried out if there is no support for clinics and hospitals,” said Hana Al-Hubaishi, who participated in a USAID workshop on implementing the law and providing access to care.

Such decrees should be funded before issued, Al-Hubaishi said, adding that delivery requires tools and medications that the government does not provide.

In spite of the law providing free deliveries, only 14 percent of women giving birth knew the law existed, according to a study by Oxfam in 2007. The study also revealed that implementation of the decree was limited to main hospitals, and not carried out in rural areas and public clinics.

Yemen has among the highest maternal mortality rates, with 365 deaths for each 100,000 live births, according to local official statistics. This is because of the long delivery period where people travel long distances to reach hospitals and lack of emergency obstetric care policies. Out of 1,000 infants, 69 die due to a lack of health services.  Only 47 percent of women receive care during pregnancy.

Last week, as part of the Responsive Governance Project, USAID conducted an advocacy training workshop on “Free Delivery, Family Planning and Emergency Obstetric Care” for  90 representatives from the Ministry of Health, National Safe Motherhood Alliance (NSMA) and the Yemen Family Care Association (YFCA). The workshop consisted of discussions on how to advocate for the implementation of the free delivery law, as well as family planning and emergency obstetric care policies to promote maternal health in Yemen.

Rami Al-Maqtari of NSMA presented a survey conducted in 2003 on maternal and child mortality rates at the USAID workshop. At least 40 percent of newborn babies whose mother died during delivery lived for less than a year, 27 percent of the children died during birth. Furthermore, for each of seven deaths due to delivery, 210 women face dangerous complications. The survey showed that 93 percent of mortalities happened in rural areas. At least 65 percent of the 365 died while delivering their babies at home.

According to UNICEF, one of the main reasons behind the high mortality rate in Yemen is that there is only one doctor per 1,000 people in Yemen and that only 60 percent of the Yemeni population has access to medical care. At least 80 percent of women deliver their babies at home in Yemen.

At least 74 percent of the mortality rate in Yemen is in rural areas. The distance between home and hospitals and clinics, along with the expenses of medication, medical checkups, and transportation are the main reasons for the deaths of women delivering their babies at home, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly 15 percent of women delivering their babies at home did not go to hospitals due to the expense of delivery services, 11 percent were turned from the hospital because they could not pay, and five percent did not have transportation from home to the nearest clinic or hospital.

According to YFCA, of 1,000 infants, 69 die during their first two years and 78 die in their first five years, and seven mothers die each day while giving birth or within a month due to the complications of delivery.

The recommendations from the workshop focused on shifting the law to a decree issued by the Prime Minister for Yemen to implement the laws more quickly.

Charles Swagman, Technical Director of USAID, said the implementation of free delivery and free contraceptive decrees, as well as the formulation of a policy of obstetric care are two crucial issues.

It was recommended that the Ministry of Health and other Civil Society Organizations form a committee to monitor implementation of the law, especially in remote areas. In addition, the workshop suggested campaigns to increase awareness and sending teams from the ministry to different parts of the country.


Yemen’s winning World Press Photo

18 Feb
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.

Fatima Al-Qaws, is the veiled woman cradling her wounded son after an anti-government demonstration in October. She is also one of the subjects in Samuel Aranda’s winning World Press photo.

Al-Qaws, who is from Ba’dan district in Ibb governorate but lives in Sana’a, explained that she only found out about the photo after her niece phoned from the UAE – though she still did not realize the significance of the picture.

“I thought that the photo people were talking about was actually my appearance in an interview on Suhail TV and Al-Jazeera some months ago, so I did not pay much attention to it,” she said, but her niece insisted it was her and her son.

Al-Qaws explained that she first saw the photo on her son’s mobile phone and recalled the day of October 15 on Al-Zubairy Street – a conflict line between anti-regime protesters and security forces at the time.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she said. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [Aranda] must have taken the photo at that moment.”

Her son, Zayed Al-Qawas, 18, said he thought it was a joke until more people called to tell him about Aranda’s picture.

“I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he said. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Helping Yemen

The Spanish photographer’s photo, which was taken while on assignment for the New York Times, beat off competition from more than 100,000 entries to win one of the most prestigious photography awards on Friday.

The New York Times’ Lens Blog wrote that after hearing the news, Aranda called his mother in Spain, who cried for 45 minutes. He said that “while conversations might revolve around composition and form”, he hopes it will help the people of Yemen. He also commented on the help he received from Yemeni photographers – specifically mentioning Mohamed Al-Sayaghi of Reuters.

Aranda, who now lives in Tunisia, covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In December, he presented a selection of Arab Spring photos at the Spanish Embassy in Sana’a, alongside freelance photographer Lindsay Mackenzie.

‘An intimate moment’

Koyo Kouoh, one of the jury members on the World Press photo board, said: “It is a photo that speaks for the entire region. It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring.

“But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on. And it shows the role that women played, not only as care-givers, but as active people in the movement.”

Nina Berman, another World Press judge, added, “In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”

Yemeni photographers are also proud of Aranda’s achievement. “We feel proud of this photo because it is very important for the world to have a new impression of Yemen,” Nadia Abdulla, a freelance Yemeni photographer, said.

“The foreign media has been presenting Yemenis as terrorists but this is the first time Yemen’s beautiful and expressive side has been shown,” she added.

Setting the standard

The 2011 World Press Photo award is the 55th annual contest in what is universally recognized as the world’s leading photojournalism prize, setting the standard for the profession.

The contest draws entries by professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers from across the world, with 5,247 photographers from 124 countries participating this year and 101,254 pictures judged.

The jury awarded prizes to 57 photographers in nine themed categories, with the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami both making a big impact.

All entries are presented and judged anonymously by 19 internationally recognized professionals over two weeks before the winners are announced.

Aranda will officially receive his World Press award in Amsterdam on Saturday, April. 21, 2012. The award also carries a cash prize of €10,000 and a Canon EOS Digital SLR Camera and lens kit.

An exhibition of the award-winning images will be open to the public at the Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein, in Amsterdam on Friday, April 20, until June 17.

A worldwide tour of the exhibition will also be launched, covering a record 105 venues in 45 countries. Combined with a yearbook, distributed internationally in seven languages, the winning images will reach a worldwide audience of millions in the course of the year

Generation of Peace initiative aimed at Yemen’s youth

23 Jan
A boy performs on stage at the USAID “Generation of Peace” opening ceremony on Saturday. Picture by Dorelyn Jose

Malak ShaherYemen Times


SANA’A, Jan. 21st – A new initiative called “Generation of Peace,” aimed at fostering understanding between 1000 youths from different backgrounds, was launched on Sunday.

The initiative is being held in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The “Generation of Peace” initiative aims at encouraging Yemeni youth to be more productive and constructive members of society.

To be conducted in training workshops, sports activities, and an art contest, the initiative’s activities are designed to help youths resolve existing conflicts and reduce the risk of future unrest and conflicts during Yemen’s transitional period. Workshop topics will include democratic processes, civic participation, community service, and tolerance.

“This initiative gives youths an opportunity to enhance relations in their society. This job is not only for officials’,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen institute.

“Such initiatives bring us together and make us understand each other. We should not work separately without knowing how the other side is working,” he said.

Nearly 300 youths from political coalitions and universities in Sana’a joined representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations as well as government and USAID representatives for the initiative’s opening ceremony.

“Today’s youth play an integral role in bringing about positive social change,” said USAID Technical Director Charles Swagman in a speech delivered at the ceremony. “This collaborative project will help maximize Yemeni youth’s potential to contribute to civil society and steer their country towards a bright future.”

“Generation of Peace” activities have been designed to encourage interaction, dialogue and to help promote an acceptance of differences among youth participants. “This job is not just for the officials; this is everybody’s job,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen Institute, a youth organization.

The initiative has been implemented through USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project (CLP). Working closely with the government, CLP focuses on agriculture and water, health, education, governance and economic empowerment in communities. Through the “Generation of Peace” activities, CLP will encourage youths to contribute in those fields that are vital to Yemen’s growth and stability.

It is hoped that the initiative will encourage participants to share knowledge acquired from their families and communities, as well as to be more positively engaged in the political process. The implementation of the initiative will be carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as local civil society organizations.

“I hereby tell our youth that this is the time to work together and achieve our ultimate goal, that of peacefully living together in a country that enjoys stability through our collective work,” said Mo’ammar Al-Eryani, Minister of Youth and Sports.

“For this purpose, we will support every work supporting an environment that builds the youth’s capacities and talents, and work with them for a generation free of violence.”

Street cleaners strike, streets left unclean

10 Jan
Malak Shaher
& Fuad Mused


Sana’a, Jan. 7 – More than 2,000 street cleaners went on a strike from last Tuesday to Thursday to demand their rights.

For more than sixteen years, Hanash Sa’eed, 30, has worked as a street cleaner without receiving a paid vacation or other employees’ rights. The more than 4,000 street clearness in Sana’a are paid just YR 25,000 or USD 110 a month.

According to Ali Al-Maghribi, a secretary for the General Cleaning Administration (GCA), street cleaners were promised that they would be officially hired and receive paid vacations and benefits like medical insurance after the strike.

Al-Maghribi said that Minister of Defense Mohammad Naser Ahmad urgently gave orders to the Logistics Department to provide the street cleaners with 2,000 sacks of sugar, 2,000 bottles of oil and 2,000 boxes of canned beans.

Past disappointments and new promises

In a GCA meeting held on Wednesday, it was decided that street cleaners will receive medical insurance and paid vacations after one months’ time.

The street cleaners have, however, complained that they have received promises before and that this time around they remain unsure whether such promises will be followed by action. “The most important thing is that they fulfill their promise this time. We only want our rights,” said Sa’eed, who has a wife and a child who also work as street cleaners. Jabri Al-Jamal, a street cleaner, said that this is the sixth such promise they have received. “Their promises are like antibiotics that keep us silent for a while,” said Al-Jamal, 34.

He said that although he owns a house – where he, his wife and six children live – the money he receives as a monthly salary is not enough to live on. Sana’a’s street cleaners also went on strike two years ago to demand that they be officially employed and receive medical insurance and paid vacations.

In general, street cleaners work three shifts. The first is from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., the second from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the third from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Each street cleaner daily works two out of three shifts in areas specified by the municipality’s cleaning administration. In addition to the street cleaners, the cleaning administration also has possesses vehicles to collect garbage from houses and shops. There are 17 districts in Sana’a. Each district has two supervisors who report on their area’s cleanliness and who also monitor whether the cleaners are performing their duties or not, Abdulhakim Saber, a worker at the administration, told the Yemen Times earlier.

More than 2,000 street cleaners went on strike in Sana’a demanding paid vacation and medical insurance.  YT photo by Malak Shaher

An environmental problem

At least 10,000 tons of garbage is collected in Sana’a each day, according to Abbass Al-Sharafi, head of Operational Unit at the administration.

Al-Sharafi said the garbage is disposed of using an old method in which it is buried in the soil and covered with sand, leaving behind “huge mountains of garbage that aren’t recycled at all.”

In Aden, however, people have become concerned about the environmental consequences of burning garbage in residential areas.

Garbage has also piled up in Aden’s streets after the city’s street cleaners went on strike for the last two days. Shop owners in Aden’s Crater District gathered all the garbage in their area and burned it near the Al-Za’faran Market.

“This forced us to close all our windows on Friday as the smoke was everywhere and did not allow us to breathe clean air,” said Salem Mohammad, a resident of Aden.

Mohammed called on officials to respond to the street cleaners’ demands and to give them their legal rights. Since last Thursday, garbage has been burned in other areas in Aden, leaving people afraid of falling ill following exposure to the suffocating smoke.

Qaed Rashed, head of Aden’s Cleaning Fund, called on the Minister of Finance to officially increase the street cleaner’s salaries.

He said that he is willing to consider resigning after striking street cleaners demanded that he leave his position. These problems came on the heels of environmental problems caused when Sanitation Administration employees went on strike.

Why is it difficult to take pictures in Yemen?

8 Dec
By: Malak Shaher, 07-12-2011

Yemen is a challenging place to take pictures. Despite its unique beauty and interesting culture, photographers have to deal with an array of issues from people refusing to have their photos taken or just being too eager to getting in the shot, to insecurity and violence.


Amira Al-Sharif, a freelance photographer who studied at the International Center of Photography, said that because Yemen is a conservative society, people usually do not accept photographers. Yemenis are often suspicious about “what you are going to do with the photos,” she said.

Al-Sharif said that even when some allow her to take their picture they don’t hang around long enough to get a good shot. “Once they hear your camera shutter they assume you have finished taking photographs and leave,” she explained.

“So you need to keep convincing them that it is not enough that you still need to take more shots,” she said.

Shooting women is a more difficult as she has to “get prior permission from their relatives, fathers, brothers or husbands – otherwise it could create problems between tribes.”

However, she said that Yemen is changing and people are slowly become more open to photographers and photos – partly because of the revolution. “I can tell you that a lot of Yemeni youth tried to protect me in the demonstration marches so that I could document the truth,” said Al-Sharif. “It was also a really nice feeling to find myself surrounded by men who took each others hands to make a circle around me so that nothing would happened to me.”

A Psychological problem

Al-Sharif said that the most serious problem her fellow photographers might face is a “lack of confidence”. Al-Sharif, who conducted a workshop for 26 photographers in Sana’a’s Change Square, said that many felt encouraged to take natural pictures.

Because of the country’s security situation, many photographers face psychological stress trying to take pictures in Yemen, according to Al-Sharif. She said that most of the 26 photographers she trained felt they could not take good pictures during protests because they were too busy worrying about their safety.

“In protests, photographers feel afraid because of snipers,” she explained. “Photographers are threatened with death yet nobody admits their importance here.

“They do not feel confident and are not comfortable in the field. Intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and arrests have become commonplace for journalists and photographers covering the protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

Taking a natural shot

Even aside from controversial photos of conflict and the current crisis, most Yemeni photographers agree that it is very difficult to take a natural picture of people here.

Sami Al-Ansi, a Yemeni photographer with Agance France Press (AFP) said that he struggles to take natural pictures.

“In Yemen people gather in front of the camera and when I finish, they follow me from location to location just to see what I’m doing or to be in my shots one more time,” said Al-Ansi.

Al-Ansi was in Cairo last month and he found “a big difference compared to Yemen. People there never ask why I am taking pictures and very few looked into the camera or gathered around each other with big smiles for a photo like Yemenis do. They act normally as if nobody’s taking a picture for them.”

Al-Ansi said that he always finds “funny people ruining his work” with silly behavior in front of the camera while he is reporting live.

“I was asking people’s point of view on something in the street and suddenly one of those funny people stood in my shot and shouted the name of another journalist ‘Hammoud Munasser, Al-Arabya, Sana’a!’ he yelled.”

Posing for females

Gender and nationality also play a role in the types of shots you get or the reaction from Yemenis. Iman Al-Awami, also a freelance photographer, said that it is easier for her to work as a photographer as people, especially men, pose for pictures, saying cheese with a big grin.

Once men notice her, they gather in front of the camera asking her to take pictures for them. Al-Awami said they even follow her around until she shows them her pictures.

On the contrary, she finds great difficulty when shooting women or even places where women accidentally walk into shot.

“One day I was shooting in the Old City of Sana’a and as I took a picture of a building, a woman walked in front of me. She stopped and asked that I delete the picture even though she was covered from head to toe,” Al-Awami said.

“One day, I was with working with foreigners and we were in front of a girl’s school where we were taking pictures of little children. But very soon their parents came out and started shouting at us.” She said.

“They wanted to take the cameras but we spent a lot of time convincing them that we would not use the pictures.”

The female photographer said that, nevertheless, Yemenis are more likely to allow foreign photographers to take pictures of them. Al-Awami said that when she is with foreigners, “people are nicer”.

A photogenic Yemen

“On top of being the friendliest country I’ve ever visited, Yemen is the most photogenic,” said Carl Conraldi of Canada. “The portraits I’ve taken there are easily the best I’ve taken anywhere in the world,”

He said that people are so enthusiastic about being photographed. He could only recall one man refusing to have his photo taken – “out of literally hundreds”.

Conraldi added that it is really easy to take pictures of anti-Saleh protesters. The only time he felt the least bit afraid of taking photos was when he was approached by a “shady-looking young man” at Tahrir Square, where pro-government tents are pitched. The man told Conraldi that government thugs were watching him and that he should leave as soon as possible.

Conraldi had his camera temporarily confiscated by government soldiers while making for Change Square to listen to prominent cleric and Islah party leader Al-Zindani speak – but says that was just routine and not scary.

For Giulio Petrocco, a photographer from Italy, the people of Yemen are welcoming. He said that a lot of people were posing and that taking pictures of protesters against the government was easier.

“Yemenis in general are amongst the nicest people I ever met,” he said. “Whether pro or against Saleh, that did not matter. I was always treated well.”

Afraid of Photoshop

Salah Al-Deen Al-Juma’e, a psychology professor at Dhamar University, said that the reason why Yemenis welcome foreign photographers more that natives is that they feel afraid of the society itself.

There have been cases when some people in Yemen use peoples’ pictures in a bad way “like using Photoshop and making people naked,” said Al-Juma’e. In a conservative society like the Yemen, this is considered a scandal that might escalate as far as violence and even killings, he explained.

“However, Yemenis believe that foreigners simply take pictures and do not misuse them,” Al-Juma’e said, adding that educated people are more likely to allow someone to take their picture.

However, some people, Al-Juma’e said, believe that photography is forbidden in terms of religion and that’s why they refuse, believing that it is a sin for which they might go to hell.

Eric Lafforgue, a photographer from France, likes taking portraits.
For him Yemenis some of the best subject

Throwing stones

Eric Lafforgue, a photographer from France and a member of the European Agency for Photography, has been to Yemen six times.

Lafforgue agrees that Yemenis are welcoming. He said that had so many great places to visit, from the coast to hills and mountains, and such a rich cultural country. His specialty is portraits.

“Something I noticed in remote areas is that someone will stop and pose and few seconds later you have 20 people around him,” he said. “I like to take posed portraits and Yemenis are good models,” he said.

Lafforgue fist visited Yemen in 1973 but he and his father had a bad experience.

“I remember my father running away as locals threw stones,” he said, though he hasn’t had any similar experiences since.

Photographing conflict

Things have always been difficult but Al-Ansi explained that the political crisis has made it even harder to work. Now many people completely refuse to be on camera, while others stop him from filming until they know who he is working for.

Al-Ansi has been attacked by pro-government forces twice. But his friend, Hassan Al-Wadhaf, 25, a cameraman for the Arabic Media Agency, was not lucky enough to get away with his life. He died after being shot in the face by a sniper loyal to the government in September leaving behind a pregnant wife and baby daughter.

“I cannot carry a big camera anymore. Sometimes, I do not know whether I am going to get back home safe or if my wife will receive bad news about me one day,” he said.

Sami Al-Ansi, a freelance videographer and journalist,
said that photojournalism in Yemen difficult and dangerous,
needing a lot of focus and an ability to accommodate people.

People’s reactions to photographers depends both on their political affiliations and who you are working for, according to Salah Al-Hitar, a freelance Yemeni photographer who worked for both Suhail and Al-Aqeeq channels, one with the regime and the other with the opposition.

“If you are working with a pro-regime organization and take pictures for people with the regime, no one will say anything. But if you are trying to take pictures of the president’s supporters while working with the opposition, you might have problems,” said Al-Hitar.

One day Al-Hitar was doing a documentary on the damage caused by heavy shelling in Al-Hasaba when he was caught by Al-Ahmar tribesmen who interrogated him, asking him why he was filming in the area.

“When they realized that I was doing a documentary on the damage in Al-Hasaba [where clashes between the tribesmen and regime forces took place], they released me,” he said.

But sometimes he might get into trouble before anyone even asks who he’s working for or what he’s doing.

Outside Sana’a airport, Al-Hitar was hit by a man, who then ran off before he was able to do anything, though he was not seriously injured.

Even before the political uprising against Saleh’s regime began in February, photographers and filmmakers faced problems getting the shots they needed.

“Two years ago I was making a documentary on pesticides when people gathered around me and questioned me on why I was making the video,” he said.

“I had to argue instead of filming,” he added. “They wanted to take my camera.”

Al-Hitar recalled a day he was taking pictures of the long lines of cars waiting to fill up with petrol when “the owner of the petrol station came out with a machine gun threatening that if we did not leave he would open fire”.

“They consider cameras fatal weapons.”

There is clearly a significant difference in terms of the experiences of people taking pictures of the Arab and West, between Yemen and other Arab countries. But there are many reasons for this; culture and education both play a role while Yemen’s traditional, conservative society plays a big role, as Mohammd Al-Sayaghi, a photographer with the state news agency, Saba, explained.

Being a photojournalist in Yemen is a difficult and dangerous profession that needs a lot of focus and the ability to accommodate people with different perspectives and views – but in a country with a photo opportunity on every corner, Yemen is also one of the most rewarding places to work.

Questions remain for Sana’a University students

28 Nov

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


Sana’a, Nov. 27 — Students of Sana’a University are worried about resuming study at the headquarters of Sana’a University, where protesters have been demanding an end to Saleh’s regime.

Arbil Nasr, a sophomore student at the Faculty of Languages, said that she is concerned as she does not know where she and her colleagues are going to study in the coming days.

The Student Union at Sana’a University and the Teachers’ Syndicate said yesterday that lessons at Sana’a University’s headquarters are to be resumed on Monday.

According to Ma’een Al-Towaity, a soldier with the defected First Armored Division, they were told they would be evacuating Sana’a University and other schools within the next month.

However, Khaled Tumaim, the President of Sana’a University, told state news agency Saba that studying would not resume until the soldiers had first evacuated the university.

“Study should not be involved in any kind of political conflict. I want to focus on my studies and I do not know if we are going to continue studying in tents or at Sana’a University,” said Nasr.

Since September, Sana’a University students have been studying in tents in Sa’wan as an alternative while the university is occupied by soldiers of the defected army.

The union and the syndicate said at an opening ceremony at the Faculty of Law and Order on Sunday that study should resume.

Khalil Al-Ma’mari from the Student Union said that both the union and the syndicate have given Sana’a University’s leadership two weeks to decide whether or not study will resume on the grounds of the university.

If they do not respond, the union and the syndicate of the teachers in Sana’a and Amran will hold elections to appoint new faculty deans, according to the Student Union.

Al-Ma’mari said that Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar, the leader of the defected first Armored Division, agreed to withdraw all soldiers from the university.

But to date, neither the presidency of Sana’a University nor the Student Union, who joined the revolution, have met to discuss a mechanism for resuming study.

“It has become a matter of conflict between the regime and the opposition. Each wants to make students study in the place they choose,” said Shady Yaseen, a junior student at Faulty of Mass Communication and member of the revolution.

Yaseen said that he would not be able to attend a lecture by professors who have been campaigning against revolutionaries.

“I respect everyone’s political affiliation but I cannot attend a lecture with a professor that has been against me as a revolutionary,” he said.

Radio English helps rural learners

28 Nov

Malak ShaherPublished:28-11-2011

SANA’A Nov. 26 — For Mohammad Al-Tashi, 26, English has become more interesting with an educational series on Radio Shabab.

“I think that listening to lessons on the Radio is more interesting and exciting,” said Al-Tashi.

The series are part of the educational program by the British Council, an international organization for education and cultural relations.

The program, “Learn English via Radio and Newspapers”, creates convenient opportunities for Yemenis interested in learning English from native speakers. The program has been developed by a team of British Council experts, according to Edrees Al-Qadasi from the organization.

Al-Tashi is from Rada’a, a rural area in Al-Baida governorate, and graduated from high school six years ago. He has been following other educational series but said that the radio shows are more interesting.

The show, named Obla Air, is broadcast through Radio Shabab in the form of weekly lessons every Wednesday at 7:40pm, set around the interaction between a pilot, crew, staff and passengers of a small independent airline office called Obla Air.

“In Obla Air, people speaking English in many dialects are involved in the lessons,” said Al-Qadasi.

“This gives English learners the opportunity to adapt to the many dialects people from different cultures might use.”

The international context of the travel business provides a believable arena in which people from many different countries can interact – but the focus of the series is not so much on the airline and the experience of flying as on the relationships between the characters.

The series consists of 20 lessons and is developed by British experts especially for learners in Arab countries.

The rock of the business and the central character of the series is the redoubtable Betsy who runs the Obla office in a shed on the airport’s perimeter. It is she who has to handle the irate passengers who have missed their flights, the dreamers who try to blag free tickets and the strange crates that mysteriously turn up.

Much of the action takes place in the Obla office, but there are also scenes in the nearby shops and cafes, as well as plenty of banter with Bosie the taxi driver.

Al-Qadasi said that other than the radio series, two other print series are to be published on a weekly basis every Wednesday in Al-Wasat Newspaper and every Sunday on Al-Share’a newspaper.

Both are related to the British Council’s Premier Skills Program, which helps deliver English educational content.

The Premier Skills Program is the first of four, followed by General English, Family English and Business English. They are to be published in the advanced stages.

Each lesson finishes with a question so that learners feel more interested to follow and find the answer in the coming lessons. Learners are urged to answer questions via SMS and enter a prize draw to win laptops every week. These questions are developed in an educational yet fun way to encourage more people to learn English and ensure more engagement with the lessons.