Internally displaced children attend a class in a tent school provided by UNICEF in Ibb, Yemen, Sunday 10 January 2016.
CREDIT: © UNICEF/UN050306/Madhok
Education planning in countries mired in conflict can be a struggle, not least because security concerns often push aside other priorities. So, it was a big lift to see the Yemeni local education group agree on a transitional education sector plan after a 4-day meeting in late April. GPE in coordination with UNICEF and UNESCO, facilitated the meeting of senior Ministry of Education officials from Sana’a and Aden, development partners and civil society organizations.
The 3-year transitional plan is important because it will help the government’s development partners coordinate better on education, and make more effective use of domestic and international support. GPE is providing technical and financial assistance to put the plan together and see it through until completion.
When a country is in crisis and not able to prepare a long-term education sector plan, GPE helps it to develop a transitional plan to lay the foundation of a full plan.
Local education groups are vital or joint planning
Local educations groups—stakeholder forums encouraged by GPE in the 65 countries where it works and led by education ministries—have proved to be a highly effective way of coordinating the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national education plans.
Since the start of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, education partners have organized four meetings of the local education group; April’s was held in Beirut and attended by over 20 participants.
The local education group in Yemen, led by GIZ as the coordinating agency, is playing an important role in providing inputs on how best to restructure and use the GPE grant for the country, and in helping partners who suspended operations in the country remain involved in the dialogue. In this way, more partners have stayed engaged in responding to Yemen’s education crisis and are better placed to continue their work.
GPE is stepping up its commitment to Yemen with new funding to advance education planning and strengthen the education system.
We know this is going to be a huge challenge given the conflict, which now affects 80% of the country. But a functioning school system—and one that aims to improve the quality of education—will be vital for Yemen’s recovery.
To this end, about US$40 million of GPE funds will be reprogrammed over the next 2 years through UNICEF—and there will be further support after 2018. Since Yemen became a GPE partner in 2002, it has received US$120 million through five grants.
Despite the conflict most schools are open, but learning is limited
The goal for Yemen—along with our other developing partner countries—is to get all children enrolled in school and receiving a quality education. But the prospects of eventually achieving this are being pushed even further over the horizon. Even before the conflict, Yemen’s education indicators were among the weakest in the Middle East.
Despite a humanitarian crisis and an economy in tailspin, about 90% of schools are open, with the government trying to continue the education of over 5 million children and youth, 73% of the student population. Against the odds, communities are trying their best to keep schools going to prevent the school system from collapsing. The reality, however, is that learning is limited.
Schools are reportedly only open for a few hours a day in many areas. And over 2,000 have closed because of damage in the fighting or being occupied by displaced people or armed groups. School closures have swelled the number of out-of-school children to about 2 million.
Dealing with the crisis while trying sustain gains in education
The government is struggling to find the resources to keep schools running. Teachers, including in the capital Sana’a, haven’t been paid for 6 months, and there’s a severe shortage of textbooks and school supplies. With the education system buckling, GPE’s has reprogrammed its current US$72.6 million grant to help cover some of these operating expenses in coordination with the local education group.
Many of the hard-won gains that Yemen has been able to make in strengthening its education system are in danger of being wiped out by the conflict, making it harder for the country and its development partners to achieve the objectives of improving the education for all Yemeni children.
And now there are grave concerns over reports of recent attacks on schools and children being recruited as soldiers—something that is unacceptable if proven true. Children need to be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment with trained teachers. That’s what GPE and its partners are trying to achieve.