Education for 4.5 million children at risk in Yemen
Some 1,600 schools have been destroyed or damaged, whilst another 170 have been used for military purposes or shelters for displaced people. One school in ten has been closed. About three quarters of teachers have not been paid in a year. Without education, children could become child soldiers or child brides.
Sana'a (AsiaNews) – The conflict in Yemen – now into its third year – threatens the education of at least 4.5 million children, adding to a long list of bitter hardships like malnutrition, displacement and violence. Adding to the crisis is the fact that most teachers in Yemen work in precarious conditions.
“As of July 2017, 1,600 schools have been partially or totally destroyed, and 170 have been used for military purposes or as shelter for displaced families,” said Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Violence, he added, has forced one in ten schools across the country to close, and textbooks and other school materials (notebooks, pens, uniforms, chairs, desks, blackboards) are in severely short supply.
The beginning of the school year has been postponed several times from its usual September start because of fighting and the lack of teachers. Indeed, three-quarters of the latter have not been paid in nearly a year, compelling them to resort to extreme measures to survive.
Hassan Ghaleb is one of them. A teacher for 20 years, he is the sole breadwinner for his family of four. They were evicted from their home, and had to sell what was left of the family furniture just for food and treatment for his sick sister. Overall, more than 160,000 teachers live under these conditions of precariousness, Cappelaere said.
Without the learning and protective environment that school provides, even more boys and girls in Yemen will be vulnerable to recruitment into the fighting or early marriage – with irreparable consequences on their young lives.
Things are not easy even for those able to attend school, because lessons are often held in shacks or under trees.
“The children of Yemen have suffered in ways that no human being should have to bear. Education is their only way to secure a better future and to help put Yemen on the path to peace,” Cappelaere explained.
Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war opposing the country’s Sunni former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia, and Shia Houthi rebels, close to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
In March 2015, a Saudi-based Arab coalition launched an air campaign against the rebels, leading the United Nations to criticise the bombings because of the civilian casualties they caused, including children.
According to UN sources, more than 8,000 people have been killed and 45,000 injured in the conflict so far. Out of a total of a population of 28 million, some 18.8 million are in need of assistance and humanitarian aid to survive.
Of these, at least seven million are considered on the brink of famine and 2.3 million under the age of five children are deemed "malnourished".