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International Day of Education: A Reflection on Education in Yemen Today

A group of children running in a hallway

When we talk about education in Yemen, there is a distinction between the present and the past. If we talk about it before the conflict began, we will see it in a good state relative to the special circumstances at the time, where continuity in what was already in place was better than trying to further develop it. Now, under the weight of the war, education is suffering from a lot of grief and exhaustion. Whether it’s the suspension of payments for teachers’ salaries, and failing to end child labor, poverty, and the poverty of technology, either way, what Yemen is really going through is a difficult situation. Seeing how the quality of the current education system does not contribute to the advancement of society, at this point we can say: war kills education.

For several years now, there has been an interruption of payment of monthly wages for teachers in the north of Yemen. This has led to the abandonment of schools by some teachers and as a result, has left students without anyone to teach them.  Education seems to be linked to political decisions and therefore, the purely political influence and division in Yemen has led to complete chaos in the educational system. In Yemen, parents go through great suffering trying to provide their children’s needs for school supplies such as stationery and clothes, in addition to their constant renewed concern – access to textbooks – which, within the Yemeni Education Law, must be provided by the Ministry of Education for free. These attempts usually fail. The student finds himself or herself under the weight of the economic conditions generated by the war, driven unexpectedly and prematurely to work, trying to earn money to support the family at a time when he or she was supposed to be between a teacher and a book.

A man standing in front of a group of children sitting under a tree
Young students study under trees in Sarar District of Abyan Governorate. Photo: Bassam Saleh/ CARE

Quality Education – does it contribute to progress in society?

Through a survey conducted by Manasati 30, an electronic platform in Yemen, it was found that the quality of education in Yemen does not contribute to the advancement of society in its current state and form. Up to 92 percent of the survey participants supported this hypothesis, with close proportions among all the different groups in terms of gender, age, and geography. In response to the question  “If the level of education improves, will the economic situation improve?”, 96 percent supported the hypothesis, and only 4 percent of the participants rejected it. It seems that the economy and the labor market have their own conditions. That is why 80 percent of the respondents to the Manasati 30 online survey believe that the outputs of education in Yemen do not correspond and are not aligned to the requirements of the labor market.  Closer analysis finds that this finding is supported mostly by those over the age of 35 (83 percent of respondents) – pointing towards the segment of the population grappling with access to employment. In contrast, the least aware and least cognizant of this finding are those under the age of twenty – who are yet to experience this upfront.

According to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan and, based on reports produced by the Education Cluster, out of a total of 10,777,989 school-age children, approximately 8.6 million girls and boys are in need of Education in Emergencies (EiE) assistance across Yemen. These include 1.49 million internally displaced children, 870,494 children living with a disability, and minority groups who face challenges all of whom are facing challenges and barriers to accessing education. In addition, 155,312 teachers (68 percent of who are male) are in need of support.

Data showing Education status
Figure 1: The proportion of various groups of school-age children indicates the gravity of the level of needs among school-age children in Yemen

How CARE contributes to supporting Education in Yemen

I work in CARE, an organization which is concerned with the educational rights of all children and youth.  CARE Yemen implements education programs aiming at supporting vulnerable school-age girls and boys to improve access to education through creating a safe, child-friendly, and equal learning environment. Further, CARE supports vocational training programming through rehabilitating training institutes, providing capacity building, and equipping trainers. We link vocational training with youth empowerment activities such as the provision of small business grants and loans. Through its activities, CARE aims to target the most vulnerable school-aged girls and boys and their caregivers and teachers across all segments of society and genders. Our work focuses on those in acute need, in areas where the severity of needs means there is a complex combination of the absence of learning facilities, higher displacement, lack of teaching staff, and proximity to active conflict frontlines. Our aim is to focus on implementing the following goals:

Increased access to safe, inclusive, and quality education for boys and girls: To implement this goal, CARE works on increasing  enrolment and retention in primary school level, building upon existing activities related to economic empowerment and humanitarian assistance. We work closely with  communities through delivering Technical and Vocational and Educational Training (TVET) and providing seed grants for the beneficiaries to support non-formal education by implementing the Self Learning Program (SLP ) to support children who are currently out of school and have had limited or no access to education to enroll in alternative courses.

Improved learning outcomes: CARE works on improving the quality of education as well as access. We place emphasis on gender and social equity by providing an opportunity for further engagement in the primary education subsector and enable advanced learning outcomes for girls, boys, and students from minority segments of society. We also provide capacity building for teachers and extend institutional support to the Ministry of Education and the vocational training institutes.

Youth employability: CARE works on support of leadership skills development through the provision of TVET training for the youth and we are always on the lookout on how we can engage youth in small-scale marketing of products in rural areas.

Improved capacity of stakeholders on overall sector development including gender-responsive education for all: We work on supporting the use of approaches that ensure equitable access to education for both boys and girls. We also actively support girls at school age by eliminating barriers that hinder their access to education. In parallel, we also work towards supporting and strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Education staff across various departments, including technical, planning, and budget staff, mainly aiming on helping them ensure they have in place a Gender-Responsive planning and budgeting as well as ensuring a gender-sensitive education within a fragile context. This is mainly through our participation and contribution towards the Government of Yemen’s efforts in development their Education Sector Plan.

In 2022, CARE Yemen has supported 25,934 children and youth with improved access to education and training, so they have better opportunities for their future (figures as at end September 2022).

A group of children sitting at a table engaging in a classroom activity
Students play with the puzzles and other items in the recreational kit provided by CARE. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE Yemen

What I see as my role in supporting education in Yemen

As a mother of children currently studying in schools, I recently shared my hopes and my pain with my close friend. We talked about what we imagine in the near future and how to reduce the educational gap. How are our children (boys and girls alike) going to be able to enjoy highly quality education? What I am sure of is that from within my position as an Education Advisor at CARE Yemen, and along with my previous experiences, I will work to achieve all the ambitions that I aspire for education in Yemen, and I will keep sharing about what we are and will be achieving and delivering towards supporting education in my beloved country – a country which suffers from pain and the consequences of years of war and conflicts. I will strive to link my professional efforts to my personal efforts and make sure I share our achievements with you constantly. We will not give up, the best is coming.

Huda Dhaif is CARE Yemen’s Governance and Education Advisor and has over ten years of experience in implementing education programs with national and international agencies. She has worked extensively on education situation analysis, needs identification, and developing, implementing, and managing education interventions as well as designing and conducting education training.

Two women sitting at a table, engaged in conversation.
Huda during a field visit. Photo: Aliyas Anis/CARE
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