Yemeni students head back to school

Yemeni students attend school in Sanaa. [Faisal Darem/Al-Shorfa]

Yemeni students attend school in Sanaa. [Faisal Darem/Al-Shorfa]

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The Yemeni Ministry of Education said it is ready to welcome students back for the new school year, which begins on Saturday (September 15th).

Ministry officials said they are focusing efforts on raising the standard of education in remote and rural areas as well renovating the schools that were damaged during clashes with al-Qaeda, especially in Abyan and Aden.

Mohammed Hadi Tawaf, under-secretary for the Ministry of Education, said new books and school supplies have already been distributed to the education departments.

"The learning environment has improved compared with last year and the Ministry is collaborating to restore schools in conflict zones, especially in Abyan and Aden, so that the educational process can run smoothly," Tawaf told Al-Shorfa.

Improving student performance in rural areas

Malik Hilan, a mathematics teacher at al-Fatih School in al-Nadira directorate in the Ibb province, said some families complain about a clear shortage of education resources in rural schools compared to those in the cities, which they say causes a negative impact on student performance.

"Some parents and guardians have been forced to send their children to schools in nearby cities in order to receive better education," Hilan told Al-Shorfa.

To address this issue, Tawaf said the ministry is making a concerted effort to improve conditions.

The ministry hopes to achieve this by sending more female teachers to rural areas in order to increase female enrolment, filling the gap between male and female students.

Moreover, the ministry plans to encourage general attendance by providing food.

By keeping students in school, Tawaf added, the ministry hopes "to safeguard the young generation against extremism and fanaticism in every corner of Yemen. This is because radicals have been known to exploit children living in these areas as they take advantage of their difficult economic conditions, poverty and poor education."

No license renewals unless education standards met

In August, Sanaa Mayor Abdul Qadir Hilal announced that local and Arab academic experts would be brought in to assess and improve the performance of educational institutions in Yemen.

Hilal underscored the importance of not renewing licenses to private schools, which represent 80% of all schools in Yemen, unless education and legal standards were met.

"Most of the capital's schools are ready to receive students," Mohammed al-Fadhli, director-general of the Bureau of Education in Sanaa, told Al-Shorfa. "What's different this year is that armed factions have withdrawn from the schools in the capital."

He also referred to an effort to reduce traffic congestion during the school year.

"The Bureau of Education is seeking to open all schools during the morning period only, as well as opening 2,000 to 3,000 new classes in order to solve the congestion problem," al-Fadhli added.

"We have been working diligently, but there are still some textbook shortages as well as delays in repairing schools damaged by last year's events," he said. "Otherwise, things are looking good in public and private schools."

Al-Fadhli said he expects higher success rates than previous years.