Officially, the compulsory school is 9 years old from the
age of 6 children. The high school is 3 years old. In 2001,
approx. 81% of the relevant age group in primary school.
According to unofficial sources, approx. 52% of the adult
population is illiterate. There are several public and
private universities. Since the merger of the two states,
education has been a focus area. See TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA for TOEFL, ACT, SAT testing locations and high school codes in Yemen.
Following a congress that received significant support from
the people, the National Liberation Front in the South in
October 1978 founded the Yemen Socialist Party. In December,
the first election was held after independence, with the
people electing 111 representatives from 175 candidates for
the People's Revolutionary Council. Party general secretary
Abdel Fattah Ismail was appointed head of state. He resigned
in April 1980 and was succeeded by then Prime Minister Ali
Nasser Mohammed, who had been one of the founders of the
Saudi Arabia's permanent hostility to South Yemen was
reinforced when the Saudi Arabians claimed part of South
Yemen - the part where the Algerian state oil company had
discovered oil. Tensions intensified at the same time as the
rising North American military presence in Saudi Arabia.
Major Ali Abdullah Saleh had been appointed president of
Nordyemen in 1978. He could not prevent the country's
internal tensions in 1979 from arising in armed conflicts.
The National Democratic Front, which consisted of all the
country's progressive forces, immediately faced power, but
after Saudi maneuvers, the war was instead directed at South
Yemen. Following mediation from Syria, Iraq and Jordan, the
ceasefire succeeded and the reunification negotiations that
had been suspended since 1972 were resumed.
In February 1985, the People's Supreme Council, President
Ali Nasser Mohammed, forced him to fire his prime minister.
Instead, Haider Abu Bakr - who was associated with Fattah
Ismail - was posted to the post. The president resisted this
restriction of his power, and initiated conspiracies to
regain it. On January 13, 1986, a counter-coup was launched,
triggering a brief but intense civil war that cost 10,000
lives. Fattah Ismail died during the fighting and Mohammed
Ali Nasser was replaced by Prime Minister Haider Abu Bakr
al-Attas at the presidential post. The new head of state
pledged to maintain alliances with Ethiopia and Syria.
In May 1981, North and South Yemen signed an agreement on
joint collection of information on the geological riches of
the two countries' subsurface. When oil was found on both
sides of the border in 1985, this agreement helped to
strengthen the ties between the two governments. The oil
deposits have made Yemen one of the largest oil producers in
the Arab world.
President Ali Saleh's success in neutralizing both
internal and external pressure created improved conditions
for rapid reunification. Thus, on 22 May 1990, the Republic
of Yemen could be established. Its political capital became
Sana'a (formerly the capital of Northern Yemen) and the
economic capital became Aden (formerly the capital of the
Democratic People's Republic).
At a joint meeting between the parliaments of the two
countries gathered in Aden, a Presidential Council was
elected, consisting of General Ali Abdullah Saleh (former
president of Northern Yemen), Kadi Abdul Karim al-Arshi,
Salem Saleh Mohammed and Abdul Aziz Abdel Ghani. Council
members decided to appoint Ali Abdullah Saleh to be the
President of the United Republic. Ali Al Beid was elected
Vice President. General Haydar Abu Bakr al-Attas (former
president of the South Yemen) also joined the Council.
In May 1991, the new constitution was ratified following
a referendum that gave the overwhelming majority. The
Constitution gave the country freedom of speech and
political pluralism. The fundamentalist Islamic groups
opposed to the reunion called for a boycott. The reason was
that the new constitution was partly not based on Sharia
(Islamic law) and partly that women were given the right to
The new constitution quickly had consequences. In the
following years, 53 political parties and 85 newspapers and
magazines appeared in the country. There are no longer
political prisoners and all views and political parties have
the right to comment.
Yemen's reunion is of great importance to the region.
Despite the major political upheavals since the British
colonization, Islam is still the most important connecting
element for the Yemenites.