SEATTLE — The conflict in Yemen has taken a toll on the heart of the country- the welfare of its children. More than 1,800 people have been killed and 7,300 injured since the beginning of Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against the Houthi tribe, a believed proxy group of Iran. The poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen suffered decades of conflict before the present turmoil, with over 2/3 of its citizens in need of aid.
In the capital of Sana’a, the Ministry of Higher Education has closed all schools. According to UNICEF, at least 30 schools have been the targets of the airstrikes and nearly 2 million children can not attend classes. Ibn Sena school in Sana’a was damaged by an airstrike in early May, and though it still sands, shattered glass and rubble cover classrooms and the schoolyard and doors to empty rooms hang on their hinges.
Even after schools open back up, many students will not return. Nada Nussir, a seven-year-old whose classmate Abdul was killed by a sniper on his way to school, is among those who will not be returning. “I do not want to die like him,” she says. Many families have fled the major cities to settle in outlying villages, but even there, education problems are not solved. Many village schools are not big enough to hold incoming students, and some secondary schools are inaccessible due to the ongoing fuel shortage. Grade 11 student Ghaida Moneer, who fled Sana’a with her parents, faced challenges when she went to enroll in her village school. “I am very frustrated as I cannot continue my study, the school here in our village accepts students up to grade nine only” she said.
Furthermore, some rural schools house internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and have served as shelters since before the airstrikes began. With the influx of families to the countryside, education is an issue that cannot be quickly or easily solved.
Children are also leaving schools for more foreboding reasons. Some rebel groups recruit boys as young as age six, who go from playing soccer in the street after school to being militiamen. Some are coerced by factions to join the fighting, and others are influenced by economic, political, or religious factors. These boys are leaving their homes and families to fight in a never ending battle that, for many, will be the last thing they do.
Combined with displaced families unable to afford the astronomical price of food and fuel, and high rates of malnutrition due to little access to clean water, the state of education in Yemen threatens long-term consequences for its citizens.
– Jenny Wheeler
Sources: IRIN News, Sputnik News, UNICEF,