Improving education in Yemen through community dialogue

More than five years of war in Yemen has had a devastating impact on children's health and well-being. More than 7.4 million Yemeni children need humanitarian assistance for safety, to fight a health and nutrition crisis, and had their schooling disrupted. Nearly one-third of all school-age children were already out of school even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to their inherent vulnerability, children are affected by the pandemic as families struggle to adapt to basic COVID-19 prevention measures such as isolation and regular hand-washing.

Children's education is one of the major casualties of the ongoing war. An entire generation of children in the country face a bleak future because of limited or no access to education. Many reports state that the education sector is on the brink of collapse because of conflict, political division, and chronic underdevelopment. Many children haven’t gone to school for years, and even those who remain in school aren't getting the quality education they need due to the lack of public sector salaries and a subsequent severe shortage of teachers.

The quality of education is at stake because teachers haven’t been paid for years, and many have left schools or reduced their working hours to find other paid jobs in order to support their families. The education sector has been badly affected by teachers' absences, and school hours were reduced even before COVID-19.

In addition, public schools suffer from a scarcity of learning facilities, many of which have been damaged by the fighting. Schools are being used as shelters for displaced people, while some have been taken over by armed groups.

With funding from Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), CARE supported schools with awareness-raising programs and facilitates community dialogue as a part of its response to improve the education systems and to support students to return to school.

Regular conversations between different actors and stakeholders is a key component to improving educational change, given the importance of community involvement in identifying and addressing education obstacles and solutions. Through community dialogue, participants discuss the educational issues the community and the students face and try to solve these issues.

Community leaders and school admin staff engage in dialogue
Stakeholders discuss educational change during a dialogue session at Al-Hareth school

When teachers, students, parents and the community come together to improve education and have the chance to be at the table and be a genuine part of the decision-making process, they are often more receptive to changes and offer their own ideas on how to best implement them with trust.

The project team undertook a lot of planning and coordination before the dialogue to mobilize influencing stakeholders, especially from the education sector, including members of the Office of Education, heads of schools, representatives of students, community leaders, members of the parenting councils, and a diverse group of residents. During the dialogue, participants highlighted key barriers such as lack of books, desks and chairs, as well as classroom crowding in some schools, and high dropout rates in other schools.

Bani Al-Hareth school in Sana’a governorate hosted many community dialogue sessions. During one of the sessions, Bani Al-Hareth school admimstartion staff explained that their classes are too crowded and students aren’t happy with the learning environment due to a large number of students in each class. To address this issue, one of the private schools in the same area offered to open its facilities for afternoon classes to reduce the number of students in the crowded school. The community and local authorities were happy to have such an initiative and all participants signed a formal paper to document that suggestion. When all participants share their concerns, they all try to come up with solutions and give a helping hand to overcome them.

By coming together for the good of children, whether it be in Yemen or right here in Canada, we can ensure they have what they need to become the leaders of tomorrow.

You can help support CARE's work to empower communities in Yemen and around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and out of crisis.