Nine years of compulsory schooling prevail, on paper, in Yemen. But the school system is described by the United Nations Children’s Fund as one of the victims of the bitter war that has shaken Yemen in particular since 2015. Even before the war, the drop-out of the school had many and major gender differences. Almost all men between the ages of 15 and 24 had been given the opportunity to learn to read and write, but only three quarters of the women.
In 2018, Unicef estimated that as a result of the war, around two million Yemeni children had no opportunity to attend school. Since then, not least lack of food has led to the children having even more vital problems. According to the Children’s Fund, four-fifths of Yemen’s children depend on assistance to survive.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Yemen, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
Even where schools still function, teaching has suffered. In Unicef’s compilation, the calculation included that two-thirds of the country’s teachers had not received a salary in two years (see Calendar). To the extent that they were still teaching, and trying to find other livelihood, the teaching hours and the number of subjects they learned were subtracted.
About 2,500 school buildings had been damaged or completely destroyed by acts of war. In some places, schools are used today to house refugees, and it appears that armed groups are taking over the buildings.
According to World Bank figures from 2012, about one-fifth of the boys and one-quarter of the girls jumped from school before completing ninth grade. In girls’ cases, drop-offs are often about conservative families believing that education is unnecessary for girls, while many boys leave school because they are expected to work to provide for the family. Boys may even be recruited as child soldiers. Such accusations have been made against all armed groups in Yemen. At the same time, girls are at greater risk of getting married, with adult men, when families cannot support them.
Both the Yemeni government and aid donors previously tried to expand the school system and equalize the difference between boys and girls. The UN Food Program WFP, which accounts for a large part of the food supply, has also run a project offering poor families food in exchange for the girls being allowed to go to school, which in the areas where the project has been going has increased the girls’ attendance in the classroom with up to 60 percent.
Lack of higher education and well-educated labor have prevailed before. Almost half of the students previously went to the three-year high school, but only one in ten to higher studies.
There are also private schools for students who have completed compulsory school, including Islamic higher education institutions. A number of attacks have been made against several private Muslim educational institutions, citing that they have served as a facade for violent Islamist groups.
As the war puts Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other, there are also reports that curricula are being changed to align with the worldview of the groups that are local authorities.
At the colleges (nine state universities and about twice as many private) many students choose to study humanities. This has contributed to a shortage of, among other things, healthcare personnel and technically trained personnel in the business community. In 2018, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) organization reported that Yemen is one of the countries where there has been the most violence against higher education institutions.
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Yemen, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
83.1 percent (2016)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
54.1 percent (2004)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
12.5 percent (2008)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
12.5 percent (2008)