Two weeks ago, Sana’a University teachers staged a sit-in at the university. The teachers were protesting the ignorance of demands the university committed to adhere to them. These demands include treating the issues of pensioners and deceased staff, as well as granting the university full academic, administrative and financial independence. Below are the details of an interview with Abdullah Al-Azazi, .
Fahd Sultan: How do you see the situation in Sana’a University and what does the syndicate mean for the university?
Abdullah Al-Azazi: The situation of the university – in general – is a reflection of the society’s reality. Any event outside the university’s walls does positively or negatively affect the educational process. The university is witnessing a setback
FS: How do you read the criticism directed to some university teachers who demands rights and never do their duties?
AA: We are ruled by the university’s law and bylaws as well as the bylaws of staff members. Those who criticize us from outside the university know nothing about the particularity of the university. A university teacher is required to teach a certain course, a definite number of hours and to do some research. If he is not doing as required, the syndicate does not defend him.
FS: You are on the head of the university staff syndicate. You have, in several statements, pointed out several shortcomings inside the university; do these shortcomings affect the educational process?
AA: There are certain pointers – according to local and Arab reports and research – which hint that the educational situation starting from nursery educational and ending with higher education is not to the level. It does not keep pace with the developments around us. If we want real education, we have to link with the labor market and we have to create a labor market that suits the education outputs. We, at the university, receive weak outputs, simply because basic and secondary education is weak. Thus, we do not know whether to treat the weaknesses of the previous years of education or to qualify students for labor markets.
FS: It is noticed that the university teacher – receiving higher certificates – sees his task ending with getting the job. He brings no research papers and provides the society with nothing new?
AA: I do not think that this is the case. There are certain rules and bylaws that bind university teachers – as they receive the PhD degree – to present research paper to get assistant professor rank. After five years, he has to present another research paper to win professor rank. The problem is that we have not reached the point in which the university teacher gets linked with the society.
AA: The society’s view is still inadequate. Some parties started to understand the position of university teachers and the necessity that he gets distinguished in order to serve the society.
FS: In many countries, the research papers produced by university teachers are utilized for the benefit of the society?
AA: I do agree. However, there are certain signals that the university might turn to be as an expertise house. Several weeks ago, the engineering festival was conducted in cooperation with the private sector. Similarly other faculties like agriculture, science and medicine can conduct activities that serve the society.
FS: Some see that university research focuses on secondary things and away from core issues?
AA: We cannot pass our judgment in this way and say that the research papers brought nothing new. This is directly linked with the concerned authorities – meaning that it is the authority in charge of higher studies that should decide what they want out of master and PhD theses.
FS: Are there any evaluation of such theses?
AA: There are positive signs that these theses are connected with the society. If some errors occur when sending students abroad, this means we have to reconsider the policy of scholarships.
FS: President Saleh spoke in several speeches about modernizing and developing universities as well as giving more care to universities staffers. Were any of these promises realized?
AA: President Saleh spoke a lot about modernizing universities; however, this is linked with finance. We find that he encourages education, but he allocates YR 1 million only in budget for scientific research.
FS: Is there a contradiction in President Saleh’s speeches and underestimation of scientific research’s importance?
AA: He does not allocate; he just speaks. The problem lies on his entourage who do not realize the importance of research and even when they realize the importance, they do not want to change.
FS: You demanded meeting state officials including President Saleh?
AA: We have not yet met with President Saleh. We only met Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar after we conducted several demonstrations and sit-ins. Mujawar was considerate for the situation, because he is a staff member.
FS: There are certain people who hamper implementing such a project?
AA: Yes. There are certain parties who stand behind this. In the beginning, we were told that we will be granted plots inside the university campus, but later they said this is not suitable. They were speaking about granting us plots within the walls of the Faculty of Medicine or in Dhabwah area; however, nothing has happened because of influential people’s interference.
FS: Some say that your demands are unfeasible?
AA: This is not right. We would like to get to the old bylaws where the staff members have the right to elect the deans, vice deans and heads of departments. We demand adherence to the laws spirit; e.g. the university rector must be a professor and must have worked for ten year after getting his PhD. Appointments should be made through advertising.
FS: To what extent does the political affiliation affect the nominations inside the university?
AA: There is presence for the political affiliation and this can be clearly discovered through making a small-scale investigation about the heads of departments and their deputies.
FS: You called, in a previous statement, civil society organizations to support you; but Mohammed Abdul Malik Al-Matawkil told Sawt Al-Shoura newspaper that you let the society down and they reciprocated the same feelings?
AA: Al-Matawkil’s article was a reaction for what happened during the demonstrations made in protest for not paying the salaries of the university’s deceased staff which has been halted for six months. The attendance was not that much encouraging.
FS: University teachers do not live the community’s concerns?
AA: We cannot judge the matters in this way. There are some staff members who let the community down and such staffers were let down in return by the society. As a syndicate, they are always there and the members have participated in numerous events conducted by civil society organizations and parties.
FS: You speak in your memos and demonstrations about confusions in the educational process especially when staff members are sidelined and who benefits?
AA: There are a lot of people and there are several difficulties facing staffers. They try to keep the university teacher all t