Yemen/January 26, 2021/By: Mwatana/Source: https://reliefweb.int/
Ongoing “War of Ignorance” Waged by Parties to the Conflict in Yemen
Mwatana launches field study, “War of Ignorance,” and documentary “Chalk Dust,” on war’s impact on education in Yemen
Sanaa – Six years of raging conflict in Yemen has caused tremendous damage to the education sector and caused significant damage to the educational system, Mwatana for Human Rights said today.
For the International Day of Education, Mwatana launched a field study, “War of Ignorance,” which examines the armed conflict’s impact on education in Yemen, and a documentary, “Chalk Dust,” which is based on the field study, Mwatana’s August 2020 report, “Undermining the Future: Attacks of warring parties on Yemen’s schools,” and additional testimonies from students, teachers, and parents.
Education is of vital importance and has been significantly undermined by the war in Yemen. The study, “War of Ignorance,” examines the various effects the armed conflict has had on the public education sector in Yemen since the war started in September 2014 when Ansar Allah (Houthi) forces and forces loyal to former president Saleh entered the capital Sanaa by force. The study examines the war’s impacts on the educational system, the educational process and the physical structure of educational facilities and centers in a number of primary and secondary schools. It also looks at the implications for students and teachers, including students who have been displaced due to the conflict and those who have dropped out of school.
“The parties to the conflict in Yemen have done serious harm to the current and future generations in Yemen by attacking, interfering with and fundamentally failing to respect the education sector,” said Radhya Al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights. “The warring parties should immediately stop their attacks on education and begin to treat education as deserving respect and protection. The international community should support accountability and redress efforts in Yemen, including those related to education.”
The Mwatana study is based on a random sample of 700 respondents. This included a main sample of 400 girl and boy students of various ages from 137 government schools in eight governorates: Taiz, Al-Hudaydah, Sanaa (governorate), Aden, Abyan, Dhale, Hajjah, Saada, and Sana’a (the Capital). The study also included three smaller samples—of displaced students, dropout students and teachers—each based on 100 respondents from the same governorates and schools as the main sample. Governorates were selected based on those whose educational sectors appeared to have suffered most direct damage due to the armed conflict, based on Mwatana’s ongoing documentation since September 2014, and to ensure geographical diversity and the inclusion of governorates under the control of different parties to the conflict.
A trained and specialized team of data collectors and researchers collected information by visiting schools during the 2019/2020 academic year, specifically between February and early April 2020. The team used a standardized individual interview including closed questions and some open-ended questions. The team also made a number of visits to displaced people living near schools and carried out visits to residential vicinities near schools in order to interview students who had dropped out of school or their parents
The study examines six main aspects of the impact of armed conflict on the education sector in Yemen. The study looks at the general context and relevant legal framework, the conflict’s various impacts on students, including safe access to school and continuity of the educational process, student dropout in the context of the conflict, conflict displacement and education, the conflict’s various impacts on teachers, and how education in turn impacts the conflict.
The study’s findings highlight the conflict’s many negative impacts on students. For example, 81% of respondents in the main sample of 400 students had to stop studying for varying periods due to the armed conflict. Students reported a variety of causes which made access to schools impossible, including direct damage to schools, including total or partial destruction by air strikes or military confrontations nearby, and the use of schools as military barracks, shelters for displaced people and centers for the distribution of aid.
In terms of displacement, 67% of the displaced students surveyed said military confrontations caused their displacement. Other reasons reported included exposure of homes to ground shelling, airstrikes on homes, and lack of job opportunities in the original community.
About a quarter, 24.6%, of the main sample of 400 students had been exposed to various forms of physical and verbal risks or violence on the way to school. 38.8% said their families had temporarily tried to prevent them from going to school due to security concerns during the 2019/2020 academic year. 59.5% of the students in the main sample said they do not receive their textbooks from the school, but have to buy them used.
More than half, 51.5%, of the students interviewed belonged to families with limited income. If the conflict continues, it appears likely a significant number of students may drop out of school—47.2% of the student sample said their families are no longer able to afford their education.
When it comes to dropout students, 48.3% of the students in the dropout student sample were forced to leave school due to the poor financial conditions of their families. Other students found themselves out of school for different reasons, including inadequacy of the educational environment, lack of family interest in education, schools far from their place of residence, and the psychological pressures caused by the conflict. Some students dropped out of school to fight for one of the parties to the conflict.
The conflict has also significantly affected teachers. Teachers reported suffering from widespread salary cuts, poor economic conditions, the negative psychological effects of conflict and poverty, security consequences from the conflict, including persecution, pressure or threats due to some of their positions or opinions, and having to adapt their teaching practices to one of the parties to the conflict.
In the “War of Ignorance” study, Mwatana makes a number of recommendations. Mwatana calls on the international community to support accountability and redress efforts for violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including those related to education. Mwatana urges quick action to confront warring party interference in education, using schools to push political messages and giving people authority in schools who have no role in education.
Mwatana calls on the parties to the conflict to stop all forms of attacks on schools. To ensure education can continue, Mwatana calls on the warring parties to do more to ensure schools, educational facilities and the areas around them are safe, including removing military barricades and checkpoints and prohibiting the use of weapons in the vicinity of schools and educational facilities, respecting the civilian status of education facilities and schools, and ensuring safe passage for students, teachers and education workers away from schools in areas witnessing clashes. The warring parties should also immediately stop targeting, threatening, harassing and interfering with students, teachers, and education workers, including for expressing their opinions.
Mwatana also calls for stronger international pressure to ensure teachers are provided their salaries, including not linking the disbursement of salaries to a final and comprehensive political solution, and assistance in printing unmodified textbooks for students.
In August 2020, Mwatana issued the report “Undermining the Future,” which looked at attacks on schools and educational facilities in Yemen between March 2015 and December 2019. The report was based on 380 attacks committed by all parties to the conflict, including 153 air strikes, 36 incidents of ground shelling, 171 incidents of military occupation and the use of schools, and 20 other incidents impacting schools, such as planting landmines near schools and looting.