Not a new school year! Endless violence shutters schools, teachers unpaid for a year, threatening education for 4.5 million children in Yemen

Students line up at Al-Saeed School in Ibb, Yemen (Photo: UNICEF/Farid)

Statement by Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

AMMAN, 18 October 2017 - “More than two and a half years of renewed conflict in Yemen have once again put the education of 4.5 million children on the line, adding to the long list of bitter hardships that children have endured. Three quarters of teachers have not received their salaries in nearly a year, and the violence has forced one in ten schools across the country to close.

“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. An estimated 2 million children are out of school.

“The beginning of the school year was postponed several times from its usual September start and textbooks and other school materials are in severely short supply.

“The salary crisis has pushed teachers to extreme measures just to survive. Hassan Ghaleb, a teacher for the past 20 years and the sole breadwinner for his family of four, was evicted from his home with his children. He had to sell what was left of his furniture just to feed them and treat his sick sister. ‘How can I reach school if I have no money for transport? How can I teach if I myself am in need?’ he asks.

“More than 166,000 teachers from across Yemen ask the very same question, every day.

“For those children who can attend school, malnutrition and the trauma of displacement and violence have seriously affected their ability to learn.

“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.

“Ongoing humanitarian efforts are only a drop in the ocean of suffering that Yemen has become. It is time that those fighting put the wellbeing of children above all else. UNICEF calls on all parties across Yemen to protect schools, refrain from using schools for military purposes and work together to find an urgent solution to the salary crisis so that children can learn.

“As UNICEF works closely with partners to keep the education system from collapsing, we urge donors to step up and enable the payment of incentives to education personnel, health workers and other civil servants who deliver vital services for children.

“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.”