A Lifeline in Yemen: Private Sector Support to Education in a Time of Crisis
The war and weakened economy have led to the deterioration of Yemen's educational system. Millions of children have had their schooling interrupted or ended. Thousands of schools and education facilities have been damaged and destroyed. And there is a general deterioration in the quality of education that is taking place.
Disaster in Yemen
The ongoing seven-year war in Yemen has created the worst living conditions in the world. The the poverty rate is soaring and 15.6 million people are in extreme poverty. The country is in a disastrous, unprecedented, and deplorable humanitarian situation. Yemeni children are the primary victims of this terrible crisis, with 11.3 million requiring some form of humanitarian aid or protection assistance.
Education in Yemen
The war and weakened economy have led to the deterioration of Yemen's educational system. Millions of children have had their schooling interrupted or ended. Thousands of schools and education facilities have been damaged and destroyed. There is a severe shortage of textbooks. Salaries are suspended for most employees of the Ministry of Education, including teachers. And there is a general deterioration in the quality of education that is taking place.
Amid the continuous collapse of the Yemeni economy, it has become difficult for most Yemeni families to provide the basic school needs for their children, such as tuition fees, school supplies, and school uniforms. As of July 2021, over 2 million school-age girls and boys in Yemen were out of school because of poverty, conflict, and lack of educational opportunities, and the situation has only worsened since then. Many parents have been forced to remove their children from school and use them to assist with income generation for the family. The lucky few have had to enroll their children in private schools, where they pay very high tuition and fees.
The problems facing learners in Yemen are compounded by the suspension of teachers' salaries and the disruption of thousands of government schools because they were destroyed or became shelters for internally displaced persons.
Stakeholders and interventions
In the face of the conflict and economic collapse, the Yemeni government has been unable to meet its obligation to provide education to its citizens. It is relying on the international community, local NGOs, and other stakeholders to help provide essential resources and services, including education, to people in vulnerable communities. In some cases, the private sector in Yemen has stepped up to work with government institutions to improve access to education for all Yemenis.
The IMAS Project
In 2019, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), a leading commercial and industrial group in the Middle East, in cooperation with the Yemeni Government and the Ministry of Education, established a Yemeni non-profit organization called the Humanitarian Development Program (HDP) to establish and manage the new International Modern Arabic School (IMAS). The IMAS project aims to provide high-quality, free, and equitable education to extremely poor children in the governorates of Taiz, Aden, and Marib.
The desired and expected impact of this project is to create good and viable future leaders for the country with the vision, skills, and potential to change Yemen's future. This project contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 - to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" - and it is aligned with the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies. It provides and supports the prioritization of safe, equitable, and quality public education for all children and young people affected by crises.
IMAS is a part of the wider effort to stem the tide of Yemen’s current disaster and create a generation capable of solving problems, building peace, and preventing conflicts.
The IMAS project includes furnishing and equipping three schools with teaching and learning aids and education technology equipment and connectivity. Highly skilled teaching staff are employed in the three schools, which serve 460 poor and displaced students. Within the next two years (by 2025), HDP plans to expand this project to ten locations, serving up to 2,000 poor affected students.
In addition to the IMAS project, HSA Group has also contributed to constructing and repairing 1,112 schools and vocational institutes that were damaged in the conflict and to equipping students across Yemen with backpacks, hygiene kits, and other supplies since the conflict began. HSA Group is committed to providing more than just hand-out charity in Yemen; it strives to be a reliable partner with the government and other stakeholders toward saving and improving lives, and creating a more prosperous and peaceful Yemen.
The views expressed in the blog are the author’s own
INEE advocates for and encourages transparent, equitable, coordinated, and regulated private sector engagement in education in emergencies that aligns with the Abidjan Principles and the INEE Minimum Standards. Read the key recommendations and access the INEE advocacy brief Private Engagement in Education in Emergencies: Rights and Regulations.
Dr. Moneer H. Saif is the Business Development and Strategic Partnership Adviser at HSA Group. He more than 19 years of experience in banking, INGOs, financial institutions, academic institutions, and management. He holds a Doctorate Degree focused on Interdisciplinary Study from Sana'a University.