As the world marks International Day to Protect Education from Attack, two million Yemeni children have no access to learning
In addition to an absence of security, the latest strikes and environment of war have posed an immense threat to education in Yemen – and this reflects the fact that the right of children to education cannot be fulfilled without protecting education itself.
Due to the importance of safeguarding children’s right to education, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a project proposed by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF) and Chairperson of Education Above All (EAA) to designate September 9 the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
The conflict in Yemen has caused students more fear and anxiety than ever. They don’t feel safe going to school anymore as they face many mental and physical hazards that impose threats on their lives.
And speaking about the threat of attacks in her home country and their effect on education, Shatha Al-Banna, a Yemeni student at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, says: “The conflict in Yemen has caused students more fear and anxiety than ever. They don’t feel safe going to school anymore as they face many mental and physical hazards that impose threats on their lives.
“The attacks are affecting students and their future in Yemen as many schools have been destroyed by airstrikes or closed down and turned into shelters during raids. Also, educational institutions are being deliberately targeted and used for storing weapons and imprisoning young people, activists, and journalists.
“This is what happened to me when I was studying in high school there. I had to pause my studies due to the ongoing attacks.”
Al-Banna also says that despite the effects of the attacks on schools and education, and the ramifications of this on the mental and physical health of students, people in Yemen show huge willingness to restore what has been destroyed. They are putting great effort into repairing the damage caused by attacks, and rebuilding and restoring universities and schools to make them fit for learning.
Schools and universities are mostly closed during attacks until the conflict in their area passes, only then can they resume their educational activities.
“Schools and universities are mostly closed during attacks until the conflict in their area passes,” she explains. “Only then can they resume their educational activities.”
According to Al-Banna, not only do attacks and conflicts affect education or shut down educational institutions, but they also affect the structure of Yemeni society. “The ongoing conflict in Yemen has many effects on the structure of the Yemeni society, both socially and culturally,” she said.
“All activities in theatres and public libraries, and the publishing of newspapers, have been suspended. Public parks have been closed and interstate transportation has been reduced, resulting in the reduction of family visits and connections.”
Many students in regions of conflict are forced to leave schools and stay at home upon fear of getting killed if they go to school.
Mohammed Abdulkarim, a Yemeni student at Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), also a Qatar Foundation partner university, says: “Many students in regions of conflict are forced to leave schools and stay at home upon fear of getting killed if they go to school.
“Trips to and from schools have become extremely perilous. This has prompted many families to prevent their children from going to school alone in fears they might get hurt or recruited by militias,”.
A UNICEF report shows that more than 2 million Yemeni children are currently out of school, including 500,000 children who have left school since the conflict escalated in March 2015.
Abdulkarim points out that poor pay and the insufficient salaries of teachers are the most prominent problems facing education in Yemen. “The economic situation in Yemen and the non-payment of salaries of teachers and other state employees have caused teachers to strike nationwide, leading to more than 90 percent of public schools,” he explained.
Trips to and from schools have become extremely perilous. This has prompted many families to prevent their children from going to school alone in fears they might get hurt or recruited by militias.
“The high living costs and families’ inability to pay school fees have deprived children of their opportunity for education.”
According to Abdulkarim, the attacks on education and the teachers’ strikes are closely connected. Militias threatening the schools that stayed open during various teachers’ strikes and the destruction of schools during attacks have detrimental effects on the country’s educational system and the opportunity of millions of children to access education.
And he says: “The International Day to Protect Education from Attack presents an opportunity to shed light on the current situation, and the dire need to support education and provide millions of children in conflict areas with the opportunity for education.