Experts discuss improving education in Yemen

22 Jul
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

Published:22-07-2010

SANA’A, July 21 – Abdulraheem Abdullah, 44, believes that his daughter should not stay in school after she passes sixth grade because it is only necessary for her to read and write.

Anouf and Ahlam on their way back from school
Sayoun, Hadramout  – (Abbie Trayler-Smith/Oxfam

Like Abdullah, there are thousands of Yemenis who believe that their daughters do not need to continue their education. Thus, their daughters leave school by the time they reach the sixth or even the fifth grade, and this increases the school drop-out rate in Yemen.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, joining forces with the World Bank, held a workshop about the future of education in Yemen.

“There is a problem regarding education in Yemen. We should admit it in order to solve it,” said Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Abdulkareem Al-Arhabi, in the workshop.

The Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank, Liangin Wang, said that there must be a fresh policy in order to come up with a successful strategy.

“The Ministries of Education, Civil Services, Finance and the governorates should work collectively to detect the flaws in the previous strategies that did not help Yemen improve its educational situation over the past 12 years,” she explained.

According to the Education Status Report published by the World Bank, the number of girls who drop out from schools exceeds the number of boys, and less girls actually enroll in schools in the first place.

“This can be explained in terms of the traditions that govern people’s lives. Most families, especially in the rural areas, prevent their daughters from studying when they get to the sixth grade,” said Hamoud Al-Sayani, the consultant to the Minister of Education.

Al-Sayani said that the number of female students and male students is nearly the same throughout primary schools before the sixth grade in Yemen, especially in the rural areas. However, many believe that sixth grade is the maximum level of education their daughters should achieve.

However, not only girls drop out of school: Boys also leave school due to financial difficulties. According to the report, since 2005, the number of boys who left school increased as their standard of living became worse.

“In the end, boys also drop out of school to work and help their families. The real problem regarding the educational situation in Yemen is the large number of students who drop out, not the number of students who enroll. As most of the people in the rural areas are poor, they are in need of financial help from the government,” he commented.

However, Lamya Al-Eryani, deputy minister of education for girls’ education, told the Yemen Times that helping poor people in rural areas by giving them food to make their daughters enroll in school does not necessarily encourage them to allow their daughters to continue studying.

“It is good to help people,” she said.  “However, this way does not work with some people. If they do not get the support each month, they come to the ministry and have a sit-in with their families demanding the support. Simply, these people need to believe that education is the way to get rid of poverty.”

The participants in the workshop also listed the most important difficulties facing education, the first of which is to improve the quality of education in Yemen.

One problem in the educational system, according to Tawfiq Al-Mekhlafi, lecturer at Sana’a University, is that primary school teachers are often less qualified than secondary school teachers. In Al-Mekhlafi’s view, the more qualified teachers should be in the primary schools.

According to a recent international assessment, the levels of achievement in school in Yemen are quite low. In fact, the percentage of students who can read well does not reach 90 percent until the seventh grade.

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