As Shiite Houthis clash with pro-government fighters in Yemen, it is becoming harder for children to go to school. Almost 3,600 schools have closed because of the violence, and 2 million children have been prevented from receiving an education.
Rahaf Mohamed Saeed, a fifth grader, was displaced twice and had to attend a school where she could not even find a seat.
“No one gave me my grades,” Rahaf told UNICEF.
Fortunately, the Yemeni government refuses to tolerate the education issue. Last November, Prime Minister Bahah introduced 2015 as “Education Year.” At a ceremony covered by Yemen Times, he announced that education should be “accessible to children in a way that fulfills our goals of social and economic development.”
The government is taking large steps toward continuing education in Yemen, and has made significant progress already. Yemeni teachers underwent training programs to increase their effectiveness. Teachers and parent alike have noticed “an improvement in teaching quality” since the program’s launch in 2007.
Since the percentage of girls attending school is often far less than boys, the government enlisted more than 1,000 female instructors. Furthermore, the government sponsors families in rural areas so that daughters can leave home to gain an education.
Because the education issue is so widespread and urgent, the Yemeni government is extending its reach by recruiting other organizations. One such ally is the Tamkeen Development Organization (TDF). The TDF “aims to promote development based on human rights,” and is doing so by rallying fellow civil society organizations to the cause.
UNICEF is helping children like Rahaf with continuing education in Yemen by providing national exam papers. In addition, the organization formulates classes that will allow students to catch up on any lessons that they missed. Already, over half of ninth and 12th graders have taken their exams.
Continuing education in Yemen serves two purposes: increasing hope and decreasing violence. Children understand that when they have an education, they have a future, and they try harder to succeed. What they may not yet realize, though, is that schooling serves as a form of protection.
A lack of education leaves children vulnerable to dangerous influences. Adults understand this, but children may not be aware of the risks a life away from school can bring. Those who are unable to find stability in schools are more likely to be drafted into the war tearing across their country. The Yemeni government, TDF and UNICEF want to bolster education across the nation and keep children out of the cycle of ignorance and violence.
But why should the efforts to help Yemen occur only in Yemen? UNICEF invites those who support an educated world to donate to the cause and help fund education programs.
According to a UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report, “71 million people could be lifted out of poverty—reducing the global rate by 12%—if all students in low-income countries acquired basic reading skills.”
The Yemeni government and its fellows are doing their part by continuing education in Yemen. They shouldn’t have to fight the problem alone, though.
– Sarah Prellwitz