Like any parent, I want my child to have a decent education. Aden’s public schools are overcrowded, making a student-focused approach practically impossible. That’s what drove my decision to enrol her in a private school.
Registration fees totalled $1,000, equivalent to one million Yemeni riyals–roughly ten months of earnings in this country. This means only high-income families can afford to send their children to private schools. Most feel powerless when faced with high tuition, teacher strikes and overcrowding.
The Raydan Primary School for Girls in Aden is an exception to the status quo. It offers computer literacy, tennis, chess, home economics and environmental skills. The school houses a small library, laboratory, theatre, and a nurse’s office.
Raydan is a public school whose success has been enhanced with additional support through joint projects with NGOs.
Headmaster Raja’a Kahtan says organisations such as Save the Children provide tools and paper supplies, as does the German government’s development agency, GIZ.
The Raydan school still faces a number of problems. The building needs repair, the yard lacks trash bins, and the theatre needs a coat
Structural rehabilitation needs vary from school to school. At least one in four Yemeni schools has been entirely or partially destroyed in the war, or converted for non-educational purposes.
The Ministry of Education’s efforts to address the material damage and requirements of school buildings are insufficient, said Imane Saleh, 31, the headmaster of Iqra Private School. “We need major efforts from everyone,” she added.
The war has also undermined the education system by driving teachers to abandon their profession. Two-thirds of the teaching staff have not been paid regularly for four years, according to Education Disrupted, a report by UNICEF.
Shamsan al-Harbi, 42, a teacher at al-Khansa Public School, said the government has no plans to address the problem of teachers’ accumulated unpaid salaries.
“A teacher’s salary cannot cover even a small proportion of living costs,” al-Harbi said, “although there are many possible solutions.”
The allocation of more financial resources to education depends on broader structural reforms, including anti-corruption measures.
“If simple reforms are made to reduce corruption, this will ensure teachers’ salaries are provided, and there will be no need to seek additional funding,” al-Harbi said.
Such resources will help solve many problems in Yemen’s schools, such as a shortage of textbooks and overcrowded classrooms in hot summer weather.
For Awad Abdullah Nabhan, advisor to the Minister of Education, the mere existence of schools is already a basis for coexistence.
“Thousands of children go to school every day, and bonds are formed just through interacting with each other in and outside the classroom,” Nabhan said.
But many classroom environments are also subject to forms of bullying, with frequent friction between students.
Headmaster Kahtan is pleased that bullying is not widespread in the Raydan school, which emphasises peaceful coexistence in its curriculum and many non-academic subjects.
In a 2021 initiative by the Arabia Felix Project, in which Raydan participated, students across Yemen heard informal lectures about the harmful effects of bullying. They also took part in extracurricular activities that instil cooperation and togetherness.
Najwa Asaad,* an eighth-grader at Raydan, appreciates her school’s efforts to develop students’ life skills. “We can apply them in our daily lives too,” she said. “We love this school.”
Yemeni students and their parents await a thorough rehabilitation of their country’s education system–one that ensures a safe, productive learning environment to prepare the next generation for a brighter future.