Is it safe to go back to school in Yemen?

Yemeni children attend school in a war-damaged building Yemeni children attend school in a war-damaged building Adel Salah/National Foundation for Development and Human Rights

28 September 2020

Yemeni parents are asking whether it is safe for their children to return to school

Schools in Yemen have faced difficulties for years: they have been bombed, destroyed, damaged and occupied at least 380 times since 2015 as reported by Mwatana for Human Rights. Indeed, by 2019, The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) found that one in five schools could no longer be used because of the conflict.

The majority of classrooms do not have desks, doors or windows, and children are obliged to sit on the floor or to take classes in a tent or in a straw hut. Yemeni students do not have textbooks, exercise books, or pens.

The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. Preventive measures are difficult to adopt given that Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world and that water tanks have been bombed and waterpipes are falling apart. Parents in Yemen, naturally, want gloves, masks and hand sanitizers for their children, but, the majority of schools have no bathrooms or running water.

The Ministry of Health in Yemen is asking for “extraordinary support” in the form of water, cleaning materials and other assistance, so that schools can open again with stronger hygiene measures in place. According to UNICEF with schools closed, 7.8 million children are not able to access education.

Distance and home learning are difficult.  A recent survey from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) of hundreds of families revealed that almost all of them, 93 per cent, have no access to online classes.  Too many children, in fact, do not have access to the internet and electricity.

Most children want to return to school and despite Covid-19 more than two thirds of parents want to send their children back to school. “Parents tell us the coronavirus is less dangerous than the alternative” says NRC’s Education Coordinator Yasin Saed. “At least at school the children will learn, so when things get better they will have some future”.


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Author: Leyla El Matouni

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