Political Instability in Yemen Is Having a Damaging Effect on Children
National Yemen, December 28th 2014
When a country descends into political instability, various social groups will be affected. These may sometimes consist of businesspeople, sometimes of police and the military and sometimes of people of different beliefs. These groups express raising dissatisfaction as the effects of the instability intensify. The media generally act as a mouthpiece for these groups' complaints, or else people themselves take to the streets in protest.
There is another voiceless group at least as numerous as business people or workers. These people may suffer worst of all, but their voices are heard least at times of crisis. These people are children, a country's future. Children are not fed and cannot wash properly in times of crisis, and even their accommodation is limited.
If instability goes from bad to worse and has begun impacting on both the economy and security, the first to suffer is the education system. Interruptions to educational services make it impossible to raise a healthy new generation that will make a positive contribution to the country. Yemen is now on the brink of such a situation. The education system, which suffered numerous problems in the past, is now facing increasingly profound difficulties because of the increasing political instability in the country.
A look at the Human Development Index is enough to show the impact of the crisis in Yemen. The HDI measures life expectancy, literacy levels, education levels and living standards.
Development indicators for countries have been presented in annual Development Reports by the United Nations Development Programme since 1993. One of the three criteria used in establishing the index is education. Educational criteria consist of literacy levels and percentages of primary and high school and university registrations. Yemen stands 160th out of 186 countries, with a score of 0.45 out of a potential maximum score of 1 (2013 estimate).
Former education problems certainly have a major impact on such a low score. Levels on such matters as literacy in the country, the number of girls going to school, school building and internet access are way below global averages. Yemen emerges as one of the countries with the most serious education problems in the world.
This negative picture is made even worse by the security void since the revolution in Yemen in 2011. Lack of material means and security problems, interrupted transportation and the inability to provide adequate classes in schools mean that education is disrupted in many areas. Political uncertainty means that it is almost impossible to make good on earlier "promises of help" in the education system.
Since education cannot be provided in schools, classes for primary school children in many villages are provided by villagers and volunteer teachers sitting under trees. One example is the village of al-Husha, affiliated to Al 'Udayn District 120 kilometers from the Ibb Governorate to the south of the capital, Sana'a. The state cannot provide a school for the village, and charities and philanthropists are unable to get aid there because of the general situation in the country.
Similar open-air schools to that in the village of al-Husha generally consist of a wall to serve as a blackboard and flat stones as notebooks. Classes consist of social topics, mathematics and basic Arabic grammar and are provided by dedicated volunteers at great personal sacrifice.
Villagers use all their means to ensure the continuity of such classes given under highly primitive conditions. Some strive to provide basic equipment such as chalk, while others bring water from wells a long way away on the backs of donkeys for the students to wash with. Similar conditions can be seen in many villages affected by spiraling violence and instability.
In places where there is unending conflict, people fear for their lives and are obviously not going to send their children to schools, and teachers will also never go to them. Domestic peace is essential for a prosperous state that can look with confidence to the future of Yemen.
The establishment of domestic peace will improve the quality of education, thus giving rise to high-quality people. A well-educated Yemeni will know how destructive sectarian conflicts are and will stand up to separatism. Such a Yemeni will read the Qur'an and learn the religion chosen for mankind by God, not the fundamentalist way of thinking that makes the world impossible to live in. That Yemeni will be taught that love of country is more important than love of tribe and will never join in the constant intertribal fighting.
Students who sit and study under a proper school roof and who learn about such virtues as compassion, love, respect, forgiveness and rationality will represent the greatest builders of the future of Yemen.