SANA’A, Yemen — As of 30 years ago, 90% of children in Yemen were illiterate. In a country that has been rocked by political instability and sectarian violence, the quality of education took a back seat. Yemen’s more pressing issues, such as extreme poverty and the water crisis, became the main issues that were addressed.
Education in Yemen, especially for girls, was hard to access and even if you could get to school, the quality of education was inadequate. The International Development Association (IDA) made a commitment to improve education in Yemen with the idea that this would alleviate other problems. Over 30 years, the IDA assisted in cutting Yemen’s illiteracy rate in half, to 45%. Not only has illiteracy decreased, school attendance and enrollment has increased. In 1999, 49% of girls were enrolled in primary school and in just 10 years, enrollment increased to 78%.
One problem facing girls and education that remains is increasing the amount of time that girls attend school. Many girls do not continue their education past primary school for several reasons. There is a lack of female teachers and some object to male teachers for older female students. Older students living in poverty, especially girls, are less likely to attend high school or more likely to be absent, oftentimes to help out at home. Also, much of Yemen is rural and accessing schools can be difficult or impossible.
Even though access to education has increased, improving the quality of education is a much larger task. One major factor is the massive population increase that Yemen has seen over the last 20 years. The IDA has outlined a plan that hopes to vastly improve education in Yemen in addition to improving literacy rates. Investments have been made in primary, secondary, and vocational education programs across Yemen. The IDA also partnered with the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom to fund two projects, the Basic and Secondary Education Development Project (SEDP) and the Girls Access Project (GAP.)
The SEDP is a concentrated expansion on projects that have been in the region for years. The GAP is a combined effort between the IDA and the Yemen government to increase the access and quality of education, targeting rural areas. Yemen is also participating in a project that hopes to achieve universal primary education for its children. These projects also have laid the foundation for education in Yemen to continue to improve with reforms in the government. The IDA has said that it hopes that the successes of these programs in Yemen can help reform education systems in other countries.
– Colleen Eckvahl
Sources: World Bank, Saba News