By Vatican News staff writer
According to a new report launched on Monday by the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF, six years after the start of the devastating conflict in Yemen, children’s education in the country has become a major casualty.
Over 2 million school-age girls and boys are out of school, due to poverty, conflict and lack of opportunities that compromise their education. This number is double the figure of out-of-school children in 2015, when the conflict began.
The report, “Education Disrupted: Impact of the conflict on children’s education in Yemen,” analyzes the risks and challenges children face when they are out of school, and the urgent actions needed to protect them.
“Access to quality education is a basic right for every child, including girls, displaced children and those with disabilities,” said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF Representative in Yemen. “Conflict has a staggering impact on every aspect of children’s lives, yet access to education provides a sense of normalcy for children even in the most desperate contexts and protects them from various forms of exploitation. Keeping children in school is critical to their future and to Yemen’s future.”
The report points out that when children are not in school, the consequences are dire, both for their present and their future.
Girls are forced into early marriage, where they become trapped in a cycle of poverty and untapped potential. Boys and girls are most vulnerable to child labour or recruitment into combat. More than 3,600 children have been recruited in Yemen in the past six years.
To make matters worse, two out of every three teachers in Yemen – more than 170,000 in total – have not received a regular salary for more than four years due to conflict and geopolitical disputes. This puts nearly 4 million additional children at risk of interrupted education or dropping out, as unpaid teachers leave teaching to find other ways to provide for their families.
Children who do not complete their education are trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty. If children who are not in school or those who have recently dropped out are not adequately supported, they may never re-enter.
The combined effects of prolonged conflict and the latest attacks on education, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will have devastating and lasting effects on the education and mental and physical well-being of children and adolescents in Yemen.
In the report, UNICEF calls on stakeholders in Yemen to uphold children’s right to education and work together to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace. This includes: stopping attacks on schools – there have been 231 since March 2015 – and ensuring that teachers receive regular salaries so that children can continue to learn and grow. It also asks international donors to support education programs with long-term donations.