Education is a right. But what is left for the children of Yemen?
The number of out-of-school children in Yemen has more than doubled since the start of the conflict, reaching just over 2 million school-age girls and boys by 2021. Without proper support, these children may never return to school, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and increasing the risk of exploitation and abuse. When not in school, the likelihood increases of girls being forced into early marriage, and children of all genders are more vulnerable to being coerced into child labor or recruited into the fighting.
Since March 2015, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations committed against children in times of conflict recorded at least 236 attacks on schools and 245 incidents of military use of education facilities in Yemen, highlighting how the ongoing conflict is compounding factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, displacement and lack of opportunities in depriving children of their right to education. Over 2,500 Yemeni schools are reportedly destroyed, damaged and/or utilized for non-educational purposes. An estimated 8.1 million children now need emergency education assistance, a more than seven-fold increase from the 1.1 million reported around the start of the conflict. In addition to negatively impacting learning, these conditions are already imposing devastating and long-lasting effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of children and adolescents in Yemen.
Worsening matters is that more than 170,600 teachers have not received a regular salary for over four years, due to the conflict and geopolitical divides. This constitutes two-thirds of all teachers in Yemen. As unpaid teachers leave the profession to seek alternative means of supporting themselves and providing for their families, four million more children are placed at risk of having their education disrupted, or of dropping out of school entirely. As is unfortunately common, it is those already experiencing heightened vulnerabilities who are most affected – girls, as well as children of all genders from displaced communities or marginalized groups, or who live in rural or hard-to-reach areas. Over 523,000 displaced school-aged children are hindered from accessing education due to lack of space in existing classrooms. Yet even where schooling is available, the quality of education is negatively impacted by the prevailing conditions.
With more than 40 per cent of Yemen’s population below the age of 14, challenges to the country’s education system need to be urgently and adequately addressed, lest learning losses extend beyond this generation and erase decades of progress, especially in girls’ education. Funding to enable this remains drastically insufficient – as of 30 September, only 35.4 per cent of the US$258 million needed to support education activities under the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) had been received. Education partners are raising the alarm, calling on all stakeholders in Yemen to work together to achieve lasting and inclusive peace; to stop attacks on schools and the repurposing of schools away from education, to ensure regular incomes for teachers, and for education programmes to be supported with long-term funding.