|© UNICEF Yemen/2004/Nybo|
|Young girls in Yemen enjoying class. UNICEF is working with the Yemeni government to enable all girls to go to school.|
SANA'A, Yemen, 15 February 2005 - Getting access to education - even a primary school education – is one of the biggest challenges facing children in Yemen today, especially girls. Nearly half of primary school age girls do not go to school. Two out of three women in Yemen are illiterate.
The Yemeni government began efforts to provide a good education for all children in the early 1970s. Although they had some impact in all parts of the country, there were and still are serious inequalities between rural and urban areas and between boys and girls. The gender gap in education in Yemen is amongst the highest in the world.
UNICEF is working with the government of Yemen to reduce the gap and improve educational quality. The current plans aim to increase girls’ enrolment in school by 20 per cent annually in 30 rural districts which have been identified as having low numbers of female pupils.
In these districts, headmasters, teachers and parents’ councils are being trained to work with local council members and community leaders. The community is being mobilized to look at ways of providing more girls with an education. More women are now being trained as teachers, because many parents, especially deeply religious ones, will only allow their daughters to be taught by women.
Until now, the high cost of schooling has discouraged or prevented poor parents from having their children, especially girls, educated. UNICEF is now providing schools and families with educational supplies to help lower costs. Through a joint project involving the World Bank, UNICEF hopes to help the government provide all children with textbooks at the beginning of each school year.
UNICEF is working both nationally and regionally to educate the public on the importance of educating girls. The hope is not only to create support from the top for ‘education for all,’ but also to build on the momentum that is spreading amongst rural communities.
UNICEF’s Thomas Nybo reports from Yemen on efforts to promote girls’ education.